Blake Hinson brings spark to Pitt men’s basketball after two years away from the court


AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Pittsburgh’s Blake Hinson (2) drives past Michigan’s Terrance Williams II (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Legends Classic in November in New York.

By Ben Pisano, Staff Writer

Blake Hinson last played in an NCAA game on March 11, 2020, the same day the World Health Organization officially declared the COVID-19 pandemic. But since the junior forward signed with the Pitt men’s basketball program in April, he proved that not only is he back to Division I form 一 he’s better than ever.

A four-star prospect coming out of high school in 2018, Hinson played two seasons at Ole Miss before transferring to Iowa State in 2020. He said part of his reason for leaving Ole Miss was his displeasure in representing the state flag of Mississippi, which at the time included the Confederate emblem. 

After sitting out the 2020-21 season at Iowa for undisclosed, non-COVID-related health reasons, he entered the transfer portal yet again. Hinson told that he officially committed to Pitt on his campus visit in April.

“The visit was terrific. The coaches were terrific,” Hinson said in an interview with “You got ex-NBA players on staff. That’s huge to me.”

After committing to Pitt, fans and pundits wondered how Hinson would fit in with the team after two years away from organized basketball. Hinson assuaged these concerns with two excellent exhibition performances in which he led the team in scoring. 

“I wouldn’t say there’s any rustiness,” Hinson said. “It was just about staying confident in myself through these last two years.”

Hinson immediately made an impact in the regular season opener against the Tennessee Martin Skyhawks. In 33 minutes of play, he led the team with 27 points and 13 rebounds. 

Hinson’s upward trajectory hit its first real pitfall in the Panthers’ game against the West Virginia Mountaineers. Hinson made a three-point jump shot early before West Virginia shut him out for the remainder of the first half. He contributed a solitary two-point jumper and a pair of fouls in the second half, as the Panthers fell 81-56.

The game against the Mountaineers marked Hinson’s only performance of the season where he scored less than 10 points. Since then, he’s ripped through opposing defenses. Hinson played a significant role in the Panthers’ comeback win against the Alabama State Hornets. After going into halftime down by three, the Panthers scored 42 points to take down the Hornets. Hinson finished the night with a game-high 21 points on the board, going 7-12 on field goals.

Hinson led scoring yet again in the Panthers’ win against the Northwestern Wildcats on Monday night with 22 points, shooting 4-5 from beyond the arc. He currently leads the team in field goals, three-pointers, rebounds, steals and points per game.

Head coach Jeff Capel praised Hinson for his work ethic and said he’s one of the most coachable players he’s ever had on his team. 

“The main thing is that the kid has worked,” Capel said. “Since he’s got here he’s put in the work. He’s easy to coach because there’s no B.S. You can coach him hard. He accepts the truth. He wants the truth. He doesn’t shy away from it. He doesn’t make excuses. Guys like that are really easy to coach.”

Redshirt senior guard Nike Sibande expressed his admiration for Hinson’s unselfishness on the court. Sibande said Hinson plays a lot like star NBA point guard Ja Morant and makes his teammates better.

“What does he say all the time? He says, ‘Ja Morant,’” Sibande said. “It’s amazing, though. Blake, an unselfish guy, found me in the break. It’s amazing, and I’m excited to get more plays like that. Me making a play for him, him making plays for me.”

In a podcast with, Hinson said he believes his time away from organized basketball allowed him to calm down and gain a more grounded perspective on the game.

“It’s funny because I felt like the more I waited, the more time I had off, I’d be more anxious,” Hinson said. “Yeah, there’s a bunch of people there. Yeah, there’s a bunch of media attention. But when you’re just at home you realize it’s not as big a deal as you think. It’s just basketball.”

Hinson and the Panthers open up their ACC schedule Friday, Dec. 2 against the NC State Wolfpack. The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and air on ACC Network.