Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Pinion: Larger role in '23-24 begins with defense
Arkansas guard Joseph Pinion celebrates Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, after hitting a three-point basket during the second half of the RazorbacksÕ 74-68 win over Missouri in Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Joseph Pinion, without a doubt, believes he is Arkansas’ best three-point shooter.
But he learned in his freshman season with the Razorbacks that it takes more than being a perimeter threat to be a true impact player.
During an in-studio interview Tuesday with The Zone on KABZ-FM, Pinion said taking on a larger role in 2023-24 begins in one place.
“Defense. Guard somebody,” Pinion added. “It wasn’t where I wanted it to be [last season]. I would say [I defended at] like a solid six [out of 10]. Defense wasn’t where it needed to be. If I would have played defense, I felt like I could have bumped up the score a little more, got some more minutes.
“But I just had to guard somebody, and I didn’t do as much as I should have this year.”
As a freshman, Pinion was vital in home wins over Missouri and Ole Miss in January, scoring 13 points in each game and shooting a combined 6 of 12 from deep. He also had 5 rebounds against the Rebels, and 10 points and 3 assists in a December win over North Carolina-Asheville.
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But he did not play more than six minutes in Arkansas’ final 16 games.
Pinion noted his individual defense progressed last season, but not at a level needed to contribute consistently. He had 6 steals and 1 block in 148 minutes played.
“[My defense is] on an uphill trend, so I feel like that’s a good thing for me at least,” Pinion said. “It wasn’t that hard for me to pick it up, I felt like. I feel like I adjusted pretty well. It’s all about, really, just listening and doing what [Eric Musselman] tells you to do.”
Roster turnover with the Razorbacks has become the norm in recent years. Pinion could be the lone freshman from 2022-23 to return for a second season with Nick Smith and Anthony Black going all-in on pro careers, Jordan Walsh testing the NBA Draft waters, and Derrian Ford and Barry Dunning transferring.
Walsh declared for the draft while maintaining his college eligibility.
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Arkansas has five commitments from the NCAA transfer portal – Washington’s Keyon Menifield, Houston’s Tramon Mark, Temple’s Khalif Battle, Cincinnati’s Jeremiah Davenport and Louisville’s El Ellis – so battles for playing time should be intriguing. Pinion is eager.
“I felt like I wanted to come back,” Pinion said. “I had like two meetings with Coach Muss. He said he wanted me back, so I felt like it was the right decision to come back.”
Pinion said he is “trying to improve everything” with his game to become a rotation staple next season. He averaged 2.4 points in 5.7 minutes per game in Year 1.
“Sometimes I’ll be at Morrilton working out with my coaches,” he added. “Sometimes I’ll be by myself doing defensive stuff, just trying to get better at everything that I can. Our strength coach [Dave Richardson] gave us some workouts to do while we’re back home, so I’m doing those.
“And then just the defensive stuff, I’ll go to the sand pit, slide in there, and hopefully I’ll get my foot speed faster.”
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