Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Tony Edwards, the head coach of the North Carolina-based CP3 AAU team, had to pull aside star sophomore Theo Pinson and calm him down before the team’s first game Tuesday morning at the Peach Jam.
“It hit him when we started playing,” Edwards said of the atmosphere surrounding the event and the number of high-profile coaches in attendance. “He was overwhelmed a little bit.”
The 6-foot-6, 185-pound Pinson is the No. 1 ranked player in the Class of 2014 and already holds offers from the likes of Duke, North Carolina,Kentucky, N.C. State, UConn, Syracuse and Tennessee, among others.
“[I’m getting] a whole lot of interest from the in-state schools,” said Pinson, who is enrolling at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, N.C. after spending last season at Oak Ridge Military Academy. “It’s a whole lot of other schools, too, trying to get me at this early age.”
Carolina coach Roy Williams stood prominently against a wall Tuesday night when Pinson had 7 points and 6 rebounds in a 66-61 victory over The Family of Detroit. UConn coach Jim Calhoun sat courtside.
“I mean, you just gotta keep playing basketball,” Pinson said of the coaches watching him. “I try not to think about it, then you talk about that stuff outside of the game. But you just try to focus on winning the game first.”
Pinson helped the USA U16 National Team capture a gold medal in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship tournament in Mexico in June and will compete for the U.S. in the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship tournament in Lithuania.
A bouncy athlete who has a strong mid-range game and can get to the bucket against any defender, Pinson averaged 13.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists last season at Oak Ridge.
“His upside is tremendous,” Edwards said. “I mean, he has a lot of improving to do in all areas. His court awareness, defensively, his body, his shot, communicating, just a lot of detail stuff.
“Right now he’s just playing off all athleticism, just all natural instincts. He’s in a great situation with playing beside great players [Rodney Purvis and Brice Johnson], so he doesn’t have to carry a team and can just come in and grow.”
Pinson has already taken unofficials to North Carolina and Duke.
Of the Carolina visit last month, he said: “It was nice. Everything is high-tech there. Real cool players. Cool atmosphere, so I’m trying to get up there for a game, see how it is for a game-time so it will be cool doing that.”
He added: “They were just saying [they like] my length and my defensive end and how I attack the rack. I try to get my teammates involved the most.”
Pinson said he “grew up a Duke fan” because campus is near his home.
“It was basically the same thing,” Pinson said of his visit to Duke. “They was all friendly. The coaches were real cool. Everybody was being friendly to me. The atmosphere was crazy. People come to the games and stuff, and it was real cool.”
He added: “They’re like down the street from my house and they were like the first team I watched so I just became a fan.”
Where he ends up playing college ball remains an open question, but Purvis says Pinson’s ceiling is sky-high.
“He got so much potential that it’s crazy,” Purvis said. “I don’t really think he knows how good he really is. I think sometimes he plays a little nervous with all the college coaches and stuff out here. He’s pretty young, so he’s just going through growing pains right now but he’ll be a superstar.”
The 6-4 Purvis is down to Duke, N.C. State and Missouri, but said he didn’t want to discuss the schools specifically.
“I can’t really talk about my recruiting right now,” he said, “because I’m just really focused on winning games and just trying to win the Peach Jam so I’m not going to really speak on recruiting.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.