When former GW basketball player Danilo (J.R.) Pinnock decided May 22 to forgo his senior year in favor of pursuing a professional basketball career, he did not do so in the name of greed or unhealthy expectations. Instead, he made his decision out of necessity and a feeling of accountability.
Pinnock, who already has a three-year old son, is expecting a child. The child, to be named Jaylen, has a due date of June 9, he said in a phone interview. Pinnock decided that it was not fair for his parents, who look after his son during the school year, to have to care for two children and as a result decided that he could no longer afford to not have an income.
“I feel that I can help out by making money playing basketball. I’m not the kind of person that likes to have people adjust what they do to take care of me,” said Pinnock, who last season led the Colonials to their best season in school history. “I’m at that age where I need to take care of my responsibilities.”
When he announced April 3 that he was going to “test the waters” of the June 28 NBA Draft by declaring himself eligible, Pinnock said he intended on coming back to Foggy Bottom in the fall. However, he found that NBA teams did not believe he was serious about making himself eligible and were not giving him opportunities. As a result, he had to make a decision earlier on in the process than most because he was not a “big-time player at a big-time school” and was not afforded the luxury of being guaranteed a draft spot. If he waited, it would be too late to show NBA teams what he could do.
“I wasn’t getting any workouts because people didn’t think I was serious about trying to get drafted,” Pinnock said. “I talked to (GW head coach Karl Hobbs) and told him what the dilemma was and he said ‘Make a decision. Whatever decision you decide to make, you have to stick with it.’ I decided to stay in. He thought I should stay, but he knew why I was leaving and respected it. That really meant a lot to me.”
Pinnock signed with Daniel Servick of Pro One Sports Management after being rumored to be near signing with Andy Miller, who represents Kevin Garnett, a Minnesota Timberwolves player.
“I decided to sign with an agent who I thought would work hard for me, somebody who resembles my on-the-court persona, but in the front office,” he said. “I needed somebody who I trusted and would give 100 percent to work for me. It didn’t have to be a big-time agent because I’m not a big-time guy, I didn’t go to a big-time university. I’m the little guy and I’ve always been the little guy and I like being the little guy, so I went with a smaller agent.”
Pinnock spent June 8 through June 10 in Orlando, Fla., participating in the NBA’s annual pre-draft camp where middle-level college players play against each other in front of NBA officials in hopes of raising their draft stock. Pinnock, who said during the camp that it was going “really, really, really well,” scored 11 points in each of his first two games and shot three for four from three-point territory.
“My major knock coming out was that I couldn’t really shoot the ball that way, but I’ve done my best since I’ve been out here to prove that wrong,” Pinnock said. “I’ve been working really hard on my shot. I’m obviously not going to come out here and take 100 threes because that’s not how I play anyway.”
Thursday’s workout provided Pinnock with an experience that he was only used to in pick-up games and practices: playing against recently graduated GW power forward Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Mensah-Bonsu attended last year’s pre-draft camp in Chicago before pulling out and playing his senior season at GW.
“Pops is like my big brother, so I talk to him every day,” Pinnock said. “Playing against him is really strange and weird. A couple times he came down the court ready to tear the rim off and I had to remember he wasn’t on my team.”
The camp has also allowed Pinnock and Servick to arrange private workouts with teams, which can greatly improve a fringe player’s chances of hearing his name on draft night. The Washington Wizards saw Pinnock on June 15 and he said he plans to schedule with more teams soon.
“I think I have a very good chance of going mid-to-late second round,” he said. “Obviously I would love to go higher than that but I need to be as realistic as I can. I don’t want to get my hopes up and say I’m going to be a first rounder when I know there’s a really slim chance of that happening. I just really feel like if I can get my feet in the door and get that opportunity I’m going to make the best of it. If I fail, at least I can say I went as hard as I could and my best just wasn’t good enough on that day.”
Should he not be drafted, he will turn his attention overseas to European leagues, particularly those in Spain, where he has dual citizenship. He had a good showing for the Panamanian national team at the Americas Games held in the Dominican Republic last summer, so he says international teams know who he is and what he can do on the court.
No matter where his future takes him, Pinnock said he plans to graduate from GW one day and honor the promise he made to his father the day he signed with GW three years ago. He said he has fond memories of his time spent at GW and would like others to be sympathetic of his situation.
“I loved playing at GW,” he said. “I’ll always be a member of GW and I feel like that student body is one of the best. I would say GW is probably one of the best places to play college basketball in the country. It’s one of the best-kept secrets.”
“I talk to my brothers, by ‘brothers’ I mean teammates, all the time; I talk to Coach Hobbs. I still love GW and I’m always going to be a Colonial. I love the Foggy Bottom area and the people, but I was just hurt by the people who said I was an idiot for making my decision. I’m just trying to do the best I can for me and my family.”