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UNC’s Theo Pinson optimistic about return

UNC junior forward Theo Pinson (left, in suit) joins his teammates before the Tar Heels’ 95-50 victory against Radford on Sunday. Pinson afterward expressed optimism about his return from a broken foot.
UNC junior forward Theo Pinson (left, in suit) joins his teammates before the Tar Heels’ 95-50 victory against Radford on Sunday. Pinson afterward expressed optimism about his return from a broken foot. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Monday will be “a big day,” Theo Pinson said on Sunday – the day when he finds out, after days and weeks of optimism, how he has healed in the four and a half weeks since he broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.

If the x-ray looks good, Pinson said, a CT scan would follow later in the week. And if that looks good, “it’s on and rolling,” he said.

What that means isn’t exactly clear, though it’d likely mean that Pinson, the North Carolina forward, is on schedule – or perhaps even ahead of schedule – to return at some point this season, perhaps sooner than later. When Pinson underwent surgery in late October, he was expected to miss between eight and 12 weeks.

That meant, in the best case, a late December return was possible. Pinson on Sunday after the Tar Heels’ 95-50 victory against Radford said his rehabilitation has progressed “really well.”

So well, in fact, that the x-ray that is scheduled for Monday was moved up two days, from Wednesday.

“Two days aren’t going to make much difference,” said Pinson, the 6-foot-6 junior. “But we’ll see. Tomorrow’s a big day for me.”

Pinson during the first two weeks of the season wore a boot on his right foot. When UNC arrived in Hawaii on Nov. 16 in advance of the Maui Invitational, though, Pinson stopped wearing the boot. Since then he hasn’t worn any protective covering over his foot – only socks and shoes.

During his rehab, Pinson said he has been able to practice his ball-handling. He has done cardio work on a stationary bike, as well, and he has been able to practice shooting – somewhat.

“I only can come up on my toes,” he said. “That’s it.”

If his x-ray looks good on Monday, though, that soon might change. Pinson said he doesn’t “really feel anything anymore” related to his injury. He has often gone through his rehab workouts before the Tar Heels’ practices and, during those, he has often been an observer – though an active one.

During practices, he said, he has tried to “keep the energy level up.”

Approaching the start of the season, Pinson was expected to start. Weeks after the start of practice, though, he began feeling pain in his right foot. It was familiar pain – the kind that Pinson had felt in his left foot when he was in high school.

Pinson underwent surgery then, too, for the same injury. Later, during his freshman year, he re-injured his left foot during a game at Wake Forest midway through that season. Eventually, that injury also required surgery.

Pinson said he has “no idea” how he sustained the most recent foot injury in October. He could have kept playing on in, he said, yet “it was one of those things where it was going to gradually going to get worse.”

And so surgery became the best option. In Pinson’s absence, sophomore Kenny Williams and Nate Britt, a senior, have rotated in and out of the starting lineup. Williams has started five games, Britt four, and UNC coach Roy Williams suggested on Sunday that the rotation would continue.

“It really is based on nothing,” Williams said of that rotation, “and if you really want to get too deeper than you guys should get, OK, if (Pinson) hadn’t gotten hurt, who would have been the starter there? So why am I going to anoint one guy and then upset him by changing the lineup?”

After weeks of progress, Pinson on Sunday dismissed the thought of sitting out the season, a possibility that now seems more remote given his progress. He said he planned to be “ready to go as soon as possible,” and that he’s convinced he’ll be back this season.

“I firmly believe that,” he said. “I definitely believe that.”

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter

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