The days between now and Xavier Pinson’s arrival at Missouri are all pretty much the same. The point guard fills his time with four daily workouts, and he fills his stomach with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“When I eat lunch, I have something before I eat lunch, and something after I eat,” Pinson said. Often, at least one of those snacks is a mushy, fruity calorie delivery device. Each breakfast contains a pair of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, too, along with eggs and a protein shake.
All of this is an effort by the point guard to consume at least 3,000 calories a day, which Pinson knows is “a lot.”
He is eating to reach an important goal: The 158-pound point guard hopes to gain 12 pounds by the time he arrives for Mizzou’s summer basketball workouts in early June. He is quick and an adept passer, but neither of those qualities can save him from currently being too slight for the college level. And the Tigers will need him to absorb the physicality of college basketball as a freshman.
Missouri failed to land point guard Courtney Ramey and will have two guards sitting out as transfers next season, so Pinson will be one of just two true point guards on the Tigers’ roster next season. Senior Jordan Geist will be the other.
Even if Geist, one of Martin’s favorite players, logs heavy minutes again next season, Pinson must provide at least a few minutes of relief. A few minutes of bumps from opponents, of bruising adventures into the paint.
“There are two things I would say for him,” Mizzou coach Cuonzo Martin said when asked what Pinson must focus on as he makes the adjustment to college. “Being more vocal — and also the weight room.”
Last season, as the now-departed Blake Harris struggled to seize control of playing time at point guard, Martin said that the position is the hardest for a freshman to learn. Veterans, Martin said recently, “understand what the language is, what coach is looking for.” But he thinks Pinson — who spent his senior season at Simeon Career Academy, an elite Chicago program that plays a national schedule — will be a quick learner who possesses a good feel for the game.
But basketball IQ doesn’t matter much if Pinson doesn’t have the strength to get to and finish at the rim. Pinson understands that he won’t be able to just skirt by defenders, as he sometimes did in high school. He’ll need to be able to “bump someone” to get past them.
“His athleticism is a huge asset to his game,” said Nicodemus Christopher, Missouri men's basketball director of athletic performance. “So do you sacrifice the athleticism for the sake of gaining weight for a basketball player? It's a fine line. We're going to make sure you maintain your athleticism, but we're going to put on weight in the meantime. We're not just going to throw 30 pounds of weight on you and then you lose your athleticism."
If Pinson succeeds at making the proper adjustment, if he puts on enough weight while maintaining his quickness, he will have a chance to compete for the Tigers’ starting point guard spot. At least that’s what Martin is saying for now.
Geist should be the heavy favorite to be MU’s starter at the position, but Martin believes Pinson can push the senior. Longtime Simeon coach Robert Smith praised Pinson’s work ethic. He joked that Pinson is “probably going to have a bed” in the Tigers’ basketball gym.
Martin would love to see Pinson display such commitment. But at some point the point guard will need to leave the arena and eat.