UNCs Pinson set to make season debut against State

After missing the first 16 games this season with a broken bone in his right foot, the 6-foot-6 junior is expected to be back in the UNC lineup for Saturdays rivalry showdown with NC State

Christine T. Nguyen—North State Journal
UNC coach Roy Williams laughs as Theo Pinson makes a surprise appearance at a press conference before the 2016 national championship in Houston (Christine T. Nguyen/North State Journal)

CHAPEL HILL — Roy Williams had just about finished his press conference at the Smith Center on Friday when there was an audible commotion out in the hallway. Before anyone could ask what it was, Theo Pinson popped through the door with a big smile on his face. The scene was reminiscent of last year’s NCAA tournament run when the North Carolina guard would regularly provide comic relief by crashing his coach’s media sessions. But Pinson isn’t just up to his old tricks in the interview room. After missing the first 16 games this season with a broken bone in his right foot, the 6-foot-6 junior is expected to be back in the UNC lineup for Saturday’s rivalry showdown with NC State. “Unless he screws up at practice today, I’ll play him tomorrow,” Williams said Friday. How much Pinson plays isn’t as certain. Williams said the extent of his contribution will likely be a “seat of the pants decision.” He was only released to begin practicing full-speed on Monday, the day before the Tar Heels’ overtime win at Clemson. “He’s not just going to go out there and it be smooth sailing,” Williams said. “We’ll see how he does. The better he plays, the more he’ll play.” Pinson was UNC’s top on-the-ball defender last year, along with being the emotional sparkplug that gave the team energy every time he came off the bench. He was slated to be the Tar Heels’ starting shooting guard until suffering his injury during a practice at Fort Bragg during the opening week of preseason camp. He underwent surgery to report the damage on Oct. 26 and was expected to miss 8-12 weeks. When completely healthy and back in the regular rotation, Pinson is a “stat sheet stuffer” — as Williams called him — who has the potential to help his 13-3 (1-1 ACC) team in a number of areas. “He’s long and he’s athletic,” point guard Joel Berry said. “With him being out on the court, being able to have him on the defensive side, I think that will help us a lot. Then on the offensive end, just him facilitating and being able to get to the basket, he’s improved his shot a lot. So hopefully he’ll come in and help us with the 3-point percentage and just being a player.” Berry said he likes what he’s seen from Pinson at practice this week, but cautioned that it’s probably going to take a few games for him to get back into basketball shape. Either way, he said he’s glad to have his friend and teammate back on the court. “It’s going to be fun having him back,” Berry said. “He’s always in the media doing crazy stuff, so now it’s a good chance to actually see him play some basketball.”