Theo Pinson told reporters at his press conference on Wednesday in North Carolina that the turning point came during a conversation with North Carolina coach Roy Williams on Thursday.
The 6-foot-5 wing from Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, N.C., and consensus top-20 player was torn between Indiana and his home state school.
He wouldn’t say what he and Williams actually talked about, but he said he decided afterward that he wanted to stay close to home.
On Wednesday, he made it official with a press conference at his school and chose North Carolina over Indiana, as well as Duke, Louisville and Georgetown.
“It came down, really, to Indiana and Carolina,” Pinson told reporters. “Me and Roy, we had a very good relationship. I had a very good relationship with coach (Tom) Crean also. It’s just, why not play in front of your peers for four more years if it has to be like that. I felt like that was the best decision.”
Pinson said he does believe that he fits Williams’s up-tempo style of play. He’s known primarily for his athleticism and defensive ability, but he’s also an excellent passer and can finish at the rim. All of that would seem to translate well to a wide-open game.
“They get up and down the floor,” Pinson said. “They need guards for 2014 because they’re gonna lose a couple of them. I’ll be able to come in and play. I’m happy about that.”
Though Indiana gets up and down the floor just as much, if not more so, exactly how much Pinson would have been able to come in and play right away at Indiana is hard to tell. The Hoosiers will lose rising senior Will Sheehey after this year, but would presumably return incoming freshmen Stanford Robinson, Troy Williams, Devin Davis and Collin Hartman, as well as rising sophomore Jeremy Hollowell and rising junior Austin Etherington, all of whom would be in the mix for either the shooting guard or small forward spot. The Hoosiers also already have a commitment from Marion shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. for the Class of 2014.
But the Indiana coaching staff had clearly made Pinson a very high priority. He visited Indiana for the IU-Michigan game on Feb. 2, and the staff made a point to attend Wesleyan Christian’s state championship game, as well as several of Pinson’s Nike Elite Youth Basketball games with the CP3 All-Stars.
“They put a whole lot of work in the recruitment,” Pinson said. “It’s a business, and you have to do what you have to do, but I respect the heck out of Indiana.”
So much that he made a point to call Crean just before he made his announcement.
“It was tough,” Pinson said. “I was hurt just talking to him. I knew it would be bigger of a man to just call him. I didn’t want to do anything like text him or something. That would be lame. I’m glad we both had an understanding that we both still got a good relationship with each other, so it’s all right.”
The Hoosiers still have a number of high-priority targets on the board for the Class of 2014. That includes Australian point guard Dante Exum, who is currently rated as the No. 18 player in the class but is also projected to be a top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft if he opts not to go to college, which would be an option for the international player. They are also still after in-state recruits Jaquan Lyle (Evansville Bosse) and Trevon Bluiett (Park Tudor), as well as Massachusetts big man Goodluck Okonoboh, Florida wing Brandone Francis and others.
But Pinson was for a time priority one. It just proved to difficult to get him to leave his home state.
“I just wanted to let all my fellow students and coaches come and see me play,” Pinson said. “It would’ve been hard for them going all the way to Indiana. Indiana’s a great school. I feel bad, but at the same time, I’m happy that it’s off my shoulders.”