Pinson adds versatility to UNC lineup


UNC’s Theo Pinson had to sit out the first couple months this season after breaking a bone in his right foot during fall workouts. But now that he’s returned, Pinson can be just the spark the Tar Heels need as they seek another run to the Final Four.

In Sunday’s 107-56 thrasing of NC State, Pinson failed to score in 13 minutes. But a further look at the numbers shows just how much Pinson can improve this UNC squad.

Pinson logged five rebounds, distributed five assists and recorded four steals as UNC overwhelmed the Wolfpack. He ignited multiple fast-break opportunities with his steals, leading to easy Tar Heel buckets. The junior brought a swagger and exuberance that has been missing at times, particularly in the New Year’s Eve debacle at Georgia Tech.

Looking ahead, the Tar Heels should be much more versatile with Pinson in the rotation.

With his long arms and strides, Pinson can be North Carolina’s best perimeter defender. At 6-6, he is more capable of disrupting opposing shooters than smaller teammates such as 6-0 Joel Berry, 6-1 Nate Britt or 6-2 Seventh Woods. Combine that with his ability to run the floor and start fast breaks through steals, and Pinson can be the type of glue player whom all great teams need.

One silver lining with Pinson’s absence was the fact that it allowed Kenny Williams the chance to play a lot more than he would have otherwise. Williams has emerged as one of UNC’s top long-range scoring options. The early seasoning he got in November and December can only serve Williams as the games get more important.

While Williams could see his playing time decrease with Pinson’s return, both players bring different elements to the table. Pinson hasn’t yet established himself as a great shooter at the college level, so his role will be more nuanced than Williams’ role for the Tar Heels.

With Justin Jackson, Joel Berry, Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks all averaging 12 or more points per game, the Tar Heels don’t necessarily need Pinson blowing up as a scorer every night.

UNC is already one of the ACC’s better rebounding teams, and Pinson will aid that cause. His four steals against NC State is a sign of how much he can help the Tar Heels on the defensive end of the floor as well. And if he ever does find his stroke from beyond the three-point line, Pinson could be a truly scary proposition for UNC’s ACC foes.