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Pitt Basketball

Blake Hinson: Bringing the Same Competitive Spirit to Pickup Gyms and ACC Gyms

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Blake Hinson loves basketball.

Whether he is playing in a local gym or an ACC gym, he just loves the game.

Ever since arriving in Pittsburgh, Pitt’s leading scorer has been a loud voice of enthusiasm off the court and has been dominant with his game on the court as well.

“I love it here,” Hinson said on Thursday. “I love this place, I really do.”

Through 11 games, Hinson is leading the Panthers in scoring at 16.4 points per game. The 6-foot-7 wing/forward has hit 48% of his shots, including 38% of his three-point tries (third on the team). He has had a tremendous start to his junior season to say the least. And all of this success comes after spending two years completely away from a college court.

“Really, I had no expectations coming into this season,” Hinson said on Thursday. “I still have no expectations, honestly, I just play hard. I expect myself to play hard and be competitive and that’s how I felt coming into this season. Nothing shocking going on in my opinion, but either way, it’s just playing basketball, and that’s what I came to do.”

Hinson, a Florida native, entered the transfer portal after his first two seasons at Ole Miss — the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. He then chose to attend Iowa State, but never saw the floor there as medical reasons sidelined him for his first season. Heading into his second year with the team, he then left the program and once again entered the portal ahead of his supposed-to-be second season in Ames.

However, Hinson’s story had only just begun.

Throughout his time away from the college game, the Florida native went home to the Deltona area where he grew up. He stayed in shape, both mentally and physically, and fine-tuned his skill set to allow himself to compete at the highest level of college hoops once again.

During his two years off, Hinson searched for competition throughout Florida on a quieter stage. He sharpened his game and his mentality in an L.A. Fitness gym, playing the purest form of hoops there is.

“Lots of pickup basketball,” Hinson said about his routine during his time off. “As far as improvements, I think I improved mentally, as far as thinking the game. I think that side of my game improved the most.”

For a guy that had averaged more than ten points and four rebounds per game as a sophomore in the SEC, finding decent competition at his local gym was tough enough. However, after testing his luck in some pickup games, Hinson took it upon himself to create the intensity and earn everything he could out of the pickup atmosphere.

“Shout out to L.A. Fitness Orange City, they know what it is, I be in there,” Hinson said. “Orange City Florida, it’s right where I’m from. The best thing about that is you go into pickup arena, pickup gyms, and people like me, we have a hard time finding good competition. I think the best thing I did was I instilled a lot of talk. I would talk a lot to my teammates and to the other team. I would make it competitive.”

Photo Via Blake Hinson’s Instagram.

“The gym would be arguing and loud, and I low-key started it, but it would bring the competition out of people, and it would bring the competition out of me, so, it was good. It was fun doing that. It was all learning; it was all fun. That same person you didn’t feel like could be competitive, once you kind of stir him up, he’s competitive now. Now you’re working on your game. Now, you got better. So that was kind of my mentality going into those games.”

Whether Hinson is sweeping his hand across the floor with three fingers up after a clutch deep ball, or he is stopping and staring into the crowd after a big bucket by a teammate, his energy has been contagious for the Panthers all year long. Even in games in which Pitt has struggled, Hinson’s drive, his all-out effort, and his loud communication have all been evident.

While he has had elite talent since he was a kid, Hinson’s will to replicate a high-intensity atmosphere in those pickups gyms in Florida kept him ready. And now, he is only scratching the surface with the Panthers, who he hopes to lead to a strong finish in his junior season.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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