CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina basketball guard Theo Pinson on Monday will finally get out of the protective boot he has worn for the past three weeks. Next Friday, he’ll sit down with team doctors and figure out whether he’ll get to play again this season.
Healthy or not, the Greensboro resident who played at High Point’s Wesleyan Christian Academy is still an oft-heard presence in UNC’s locker room.
Pinson broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot in UNC’s win against Wake Forest. He has missed five games and won't play Saturday at Pittsburgh (noon, WFMY-2). If Pinson needs surgery to repair the bone, he would miss the rest of the season.
It’s a tentative situation for a player who was just starting to provide energy off the bench. With UNC’s backcourt still thinned by injuries, any minutes Pinson could provide would be valuable.
“The first day (after the injury), it hit me really hard,” Pinson said. “I felt like I was turning a corner, really getting comfortable and everything.”
Pinson’s mother, Barbara, went to Chapel Hill for his X-ray and provided moral support. Pinson’s father, Theo, counseled him to work on dribbling and shooting drills and focus on those rather than the injury.
But regardless of whether Pinson plays again this season, UNC players and coaches say Pinson’s role hasn’t changed for the Tar Heels – he’s still the guy who speaks up.
“If he sees anyone down or kind of kinked out, he always tries to pick them up,” sophomore guard Nate Britt said. “He brought us a lot of energy while he was playing, and I feel that hasn’t died.”
Pinson’s role as emotional support is an unusual one for a freshman on a team full of more experienced players. But UNC has openly searched for outspoken players alongside of junior Marcus Paige, and Pinson arrived on campus ready-made to be outspoken.
“I just have to get it off my chest or it’s going to be lingering over my head,” Pinson said. “Most of the time when I say things everybody is like ‘I’m glad you said that. We don’t have many people on our team that will speak up and say things.’ … Sometimes you just have to hear it.”
Even so, Pinson said he has been surprised with how well-received his personality has been at UNC. He knows he’s outspoken but said he’s heard more often than not.
Pinson has go-to sayings for most of the players on the team. For Paige, Pinson makes a point to remind Paige that it's his team and he has to carry the Tar Heels. For Pinson’s roommate, Justin Jackson, it’s a reminder to not get too down on himself.
Pinson hasn’t even relinquished his pregame dance duties – when UNC plays "Jump Around" before tipoff at home games, Pinson hobbles through one-legged dance moves. At first, UNC athletics trainer Doug Halverson said Pinson shouldn’t be shimmying in a boot. Pinson does it anyway.
“That’s me,” Pinson said. “But I’m not going to change myself.”