July 7, 2014
This edition of the Nova Notebook, by director of media relations Mike Sheridan, profiles forward JayVaughn Pinkston, who enters his senior season at Villanova this fall.
He is standing inside the Davis Center Weight Room on this warm July day and there may be no more fitting backdrop than this for a conversation with JayVaughn Pinkston. For his work in this place on quiet days far from the bright lights that has already played a part in lifting him into the exclusive 1,000 point club at Villanova and offers the tantalizing prospect of further strides to be taken in 2014-15.
When Pinkston came to Villanova from Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2010 he was, in fact, a gifted scorer who had earned McDonald's All-American plaudits at Bishop Loughlin High School in his home borough. Yet the step up to college competition would require more from the 6-7 forward - more stamina, more muscle and more daily dedication to the notion of honing his body.
Pinkston realized quickly the need for that adjustment.
"Coming from high school to college is a big change, just the flow of the game," notes Pinkston. "Everybody you go against is bigger and faster."
The weight room then became a laboratory of sorts for Pinkston. In tandem with strength coach John Shackleton, Pinkston improved his diet. The work there yielded gains in muscle tone and stamina. It all added up to a player who in 2013-14 established himself as a second team All-BIG EAST performer and cornerstone of a unit that posted a 29-5 record while earning its regular season conference crown while climbing into the Top 10 of both national polls.
It all begins here.
"I am in so much better shape with my conditioning," says Pinkston, who came to Villanova weighing north of 270 pounds but today checks in at a chiseled 240. "I'm still a little up and down with my weight. I just try to come in here and get a good sweat in. I know the extra conditioning will help me both on and off the court.
"I credit (my improvement) to Shack."
Though Pinkston's minutes per game have remained steady over the course of his three seasons in uniform at roughly 27 minutes per outing, he has quietly enhanced his efficiency in that time frame (he sat out the 2010-11 season for a violation of the University code of conduct). His overall field goal percentage rose to .531 last season after a debut effort of .408 in 2011-12. His free throw shooting percentage climbed from .669 as a rookie to .744 a season ago and he also established career highs in points (14.1 ppg) and rebounds (6.1 rpg).
Perhaps the most significant enhancement came in the turnover column where the trend pointed sharply downward: he committed 58 in 2013-14 after producing 170 miscues in his first two seasons as a collegian (an average of 85 per season).
Through three seasons, Pinkston has already amassed 1,240 points with one remaining year of eligibility looming. A strong farewell season could place his name alongside some elite athletes in the long history of Wildcats basketball.
Many of those points have been a product of Pinkston's knack for productivity inside, where he presents numerous mismatches with his strength and quickness. That often adds up to multiple free throw attempts and 421 of those 1,240 points - 34 percent - have been delivered at the foul line. Though he has shown glimpses of 3-point aptitude in his three seasons, he has done most of his damage in the shadow of the basket.
One of his primary hoops tasks this summer has been to hone his accuracy from beyond the 3-point arc so that it is the kind of reliable weapon that opponents must honor constantly.
"It's repetition mostly," he says. "I am getting up as many shots as I can from the elbow, from the 3-point line, so that it's second nature."
Pinkston spent much of his first three years here adding a foundation of quality defensive work and rebounding to his natural scoring gifts inside. He has also learned how to become an adroit passer out of double-teams he frequently finds down low, which only added fuel to the Wildcats' offense last season. Consistent long range accuracy then could be the final piece to the puzzle.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright often lauded Pinkston's team-first attitude and understanding of how to play the game in 2013-14. Now, he'll be expected to use all that he has learned to help point the way for a new generation of Wildcats as the longest tenured Wildcat having first arrived at VU in 2010.
"It's a work in progress," Pinkston says of the added responsibility of helping to point the way as a senior. "I'm not a person who says much. I'm trying to get better at it every day - just like my jump shot."
"Coach (Wright) reminds me it's not going to happen in a day. Just keep working at it."
Part of the role a respected senior plays at Villanova is to represent the program in public settings and in media sessions. Though polite and cooperative when tasked with those responsibilities during his three seasons here, it has been a gradual process for Pinkston to feel comfortable in such situations.
"I know how it helps you in the long run - speaking in public, doing interviews," he says. "I'm still learning and trying to get better at it."
He has in fact grown in that regard and believes that the Villanova community has played a part in that development.
"Being here has helped me grow as a person and mature," he states.
It has been nearly a full year since the August 2013 discovery of a MRSA infection in his leg that forced Pinkston into the hospital for several days and kept him away from basketball well into September. There have been no lingering effects from that episode but Pinkston plans to be especially attentive to his body during the quiet summer months this time around..
"I'm trying to keep it uneventful - just praying for that and taking it one day at a time," he says with a chuckle when reminded of the events of last summer.
It's a mantra that has served the Brooklyn native well over his first three seasons and one he believes can help him write a successful conclusion to what has already been a most productive college career.