High Point Wesleyan’s Theo Pinson, a top 15 national recruit in the class of 2014, said his life changed – at least his basketball life – in ninth grade.
Pinson was asked to play AAU basketball with rising seniors in high school. He admits he was a little nervous, but he surprised himself with how well he did.
“I knew I was getting better because stuff was starting to come more easily for me,” Pinson said after Friday’s 48-33 N.C. Independent School Schools 3A quarterfinal win against Raleigh Ravenscroft. “But I starting playing (with) 17s at 14 years old, and I was actually doing all right for my age.”
Pinson’s face lights up with a big smile. Then he continues: “I said, ‘Hey, I can play with these guys a little bit.’ I starting thinking I could play on this level.”
That same year, in ninth grade, Pinson shot up from 6-foot to 6-4. He hit the national recruiting radar, and he kept getting better.
Today, he’s 6-6 with very long arms and he’s very fast. He’s also a big-time college recruit.
ESPN ranks Pinson No. 13 in the class of 2014. He attended the North Carolina at Duke game this year on an official visit, and he’s also visited Indiana and N.C. State. Pinson has offers from, among others, Duke, Florida State, Georgetown, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis, North Carolina and N.C. State. He said he plans to pick a school sometime in the first part of his senior season.
In college, Pinson said coaches are simply telling him he will be a basketball player. He can play both guard positions.
“The thing with Theo is he’s got so many options in his arsenal,” ESPN national recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. “He’s becoming a better perimeter threat.
“You can run offense through him because he can pass the ball. In college, I think you’ll see a guy who is a committed defender, too. It’s just easy to see, when you watch him, why he’s a top 20 prospect in his class.”
It certainly was Friday against Ravenscroft.
Pinson didn’t hit an outside shot – he attempted only one – but he got to the basket at will and delivered several spinning layups that showed impressive jumping ability and body control. He was a swarming defender. He made 8 of 15 shot attempts for 16 points and had four rebounds and two steals.
He also threw down a thunderous two-handed dunk in the second half that got the crowd on its feet. He barely missed another when he took off outside the painted area near the basket, cocked his right hand back as far as he could and tried to almost throw the ball down through the hoop. The ball violently hit the back rim and bounced to half court.
The attempt, however, was breathtaking enough.
“Theo can do a lot of things,” said Wesleyan coach Keith Gatlin, who played at Maryland from 1984 to 1988 and was a teammate of all-time ACC great Len Bias. “He’s very long, very athletic and does so many things on the floor. We’re working on him getting stronger right now because at the next level everybody’s strong.”
Providence Day coach Brian Field believes that Pinson is one of the best private school players the state has seen in the past decade.
“The guy can just play,” said Field, whose team lost to Wesleyan 64-52 Jan. 3 at home. “He’s a big shooting guard and he’s so athletic. He can get the to rim, shoot the 3, elevate.”
Pinson said he appreciates all the compliments, but is determined to keep getting better.
“The coaches in college aren’t telling me what position I’ll play,” he said. “They said you don’t have one when you have a 6-5 or 6-6 player who can handle and shoot the ball. So I’ve got to be ready for anything.
“I want to get better. I’ll work on my defense and I’ve got to get stronger and I’ve got to get more crafty getting to the basket. Oh, and I’ve got to improve my jump shot. I guess, really, I’ve got to get better at everything still.”
Wertz: 704-612-9716; twitter: @langstonwertzjr
Want to see Theo Pinson play?
High Point Wesleyan will play Providence Day or High Point Christian in the N.C. 3A Independent Schools semifinals Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Charlotte Latin School. Also, read Langston Wertz Jr’s take on Pinson’s 6-8 freshman teammate Harry Giles at charlotteobserver.com/preps