North Carolina’s energy guy, the Tar Heels’ best passer – and perhaps their best dancer – is returning to school. Theo Pinson announced on Wednesday in a statement that he’d be back for his senior season, after flirting with the NBA draft.
Pinson initially declared his eligibility for the draft but did not sign with an agent, which left open the option for him to return to UNC. When he didn’t receive an invitation to the NBA combine, his decision likely became clearer.
“I’m glad I took the time to explore the NBA Draft process but I am going to play my senior year as a Tar Heel,” Pinson said in a statement. “It was a dream of mine to play college basketball at the best school and in the best league in the country, and it is a dream of mine to play in the NBA as well.
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“The best path for me to reach the league and have a long career there is to have a great senior season and I am so excited to have that opportunity to play another year for coach (Roy) Williams and finish my degree as well.”
Pinson, a 6-6, 211-pound forward/guard, has played a key role on UNC’s past two teams, both of which reached the Final Four. He was especially instrumental last season when, after returning from a broken foot that forced him to miss the first 16 games, he helped lead UNC to the national championship.
Pinson isn’t necessarily known for his scoring – he averaged 6.1 points per game a season ago – but he has been UNC’s most versatile player, one capable of playing four positions and filling a variety of roles. He’s considered the Tar Heels’ best passer, and a capable rebounder and defender, as well.
He finished last season with 77 assists, more than any other UNC player in the 21 games in which Pinson played. Nine times Pinson led the Tar Heels in assists, and during the Final Four he averaged 8.5 rebounds during victories against Oregon and Gonzaga.
Williams, the UNC coach, has long described Pinson as the team’s “energy guy,” a player who seems to make his teammates better when he’s on the court. Pinson is also known for his jovial nature – he made a habit of crashing press conferences during UNC’s run to the Final Four in 2016 – and for his popular pregame dance moves, which were curtailed when he became a starter last season.
Williams in a statement said Pinson, a Greensboro native, gives UNC “tremendous energy and confidence.”
“We fully supported his decision to look into the draft process and we are excited to know that he will return to Carolina for his senior season,” Williams said. “I know he will continue to provide exceptional play and leadership next year.”
Pinson’s decision means UNC will bring back two starters from its national championship team. Joel Berry, the point guard who earned Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors, also announced that he is returning for his senior season.
Kenny Williams, the sophomore guard who started when Pinson was hurt last season, is also coming back. The Tar Heels will have enviable depth in the backcourt, with Berry, Seventh Woods, Kenny Williams and incoming freshman Jalek Felton. Pinson is also capable of playing either guard position.
UNC is still waiting for Tony Bradley to make his final decision. Bradley, a 6-10 forward, is going through the NBA pre-draft process, including the NBA combine, but he has not signed with an agent and could still return to school.
If he does, he’d be in line to become the focal point of the Tar Heels’ low-post offense. UNC is also waiting for Kevin Knox to make his college decision. Knox, a 6-8 forward from Tampa, Fla., is one of the of the top uncommitted high school prospects in the country.
He is expected to announce his college decision later this week. UNC, Duke, Kentucky and Florida State are his finalists.