North Carolina

The time UNC’s Theo Pinson went to the mall and wound up FaceTiming with ‘Pookie’

UNC forward Theo Pinson, middle, celebrates with the rest of the Tar Heels as UNC beat Gonzaga 71-65 for the national championship in April.
UNC forward Theo Pinson, middle, celebrates with the rest of the Tar Heels as UNC beat Gonzaga 71-65 for the national championship in April. cliddy@newsobserver.com

The ACC held its annual basketball media day earlier this week, and North Carolina’s Theo Pinson was among the more popular players in attendance. This was not a surprise. Pinson makes friends most places he goes. Anywhere on campus, for instance.

“You just try not to let it get to your head, at all,” Pinson, the North Carolina senior, said earlier this week of the attention he often receives when he’s out and about. “I mean, I know I don’t. I just take pictures with everybody who asks, and I talk to everybody, anyway ...”

That sort of social approach, though, can lead to some interesting moments. Like the time Pinson and Joel Berry, the senior point guard, went to the mall a couple of days after the Tar Heels returned from winning the national championship in early April.

Looking back, perhaps it wasn’t the brightest of ideas.

“Me and Joel made a really bad decision,” Pinson said.

He was telling the story about how they went to The Streets at Southpoint, in Durham. Two days earlier, the Tar Heels had won the national championship. And now Pinson and Berry came up with the grand idea of visiting the largest mall around, just to do a little shopping.

“Why (would) we do that?” Pinson asked. “We don’t know. It was stupid. We went there, we literally went there, we went to shop for something and when we were there, we forgot what we wanted to get, because we took so many pictures and autographs and stuff like that.

“Terrible decision.”

Well, it wasn’t all that terrible. Pinson is a people person, after all. He doesn’t mind the attention.

So here they are, Berry and Pinson, roommates and classmates and national champions, navigating the chaos of stardom. At one point, Pinson said, they encountered what he only described as “one lady at the mall,” and she was particularly enamored with Berry.

“She was like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s Joel Berry!’ ” Pinson said, doing his best lady-at-the-mall impersonation. “She was like, ‘Hold on, I’ve got to call my sister, Pookie!’ We were like, ‘What!?’

“We FaceTimed her – Joel having a FaceTime conversation with her sister. I was over there crying laughing, and we forget whatever we were going in to get, and we just had to leave.”

And that’s how it came to be that two days after UNC won the national championship, Berry and Pinson came to FaceTime with “Pookie,” if that is indeed her real name. Pinson remembers that part of the mall visit, but not what he and Berry were trying to buy.

“We were there for at least an hour and a half,” Pinson said, “and did not look at anything.”

Four other quick things from Pinson’s session at ACC media day

▪ 1. Pinson has gained about 10 to 12 pounds (and is now about 220 pounds) so that he can better withstand the demands of playing more in the interior, which he’ll likely be doing more given UNC’s lack of proven interior players. Pinson said he was a “little nervous” about the weight gain given his history of foot injuries but, he said, “I’ve been running well at this weight, so it’s been working out well for me.”

▪ 2. Berry broke his hand after losing against Pinson, and a student manager, in a video game. This is how Pinson described that situation: “It was a Joel thing.”

▪ 3. Pinson has worked a lot on his perimeter shot. During his workouts with Hubert Davis, Pinson has attempted his shots from behind the NBA 3-point line, exclusively. He wants to develop that shot and show NBA people that he’s capable of making it. Someone asked him what percentage he thinks he can shoot: “Hopefully I can shoot 100 percent,” Pinson said, and the question deserved that answer.

▪ 4. Pinson will likely have to play everywhere this season. He’s done that throughout his college years, but his role is likely to be more wide-ranging than it has been. Being able to play four positions “is really big,” he said, “especially the way the league is going.” Speaking of the NBA, Pinson said he’d like to model some of his game after Warriors power forward Draymond Green, because he “plays with a grit and a grind.”

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter

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