Remember playing pickup basketball on the schoolyard and choosing the tall, lanky kid — regardless of skill — to be on your team? That’s what it’s always been like for Seth Pinkney.
As a 5th grader, Pinkney was already 6-foot. Entering middle school, he was 6-foot-2, and by the time he got to high school, he was 6-foot-7. By his senior year, he was 7-feet. While Pinkney has forever been the tallest kid, he hasn’t always been as high on being a basketball player.
“When I first started, I really didn’t get into basketball, I was just really tall, Pinkney said. “So it was more so like ‘why won’t you just play.’ People just told me to play and I just played because I was tall. I didn’t really want to play basketball, it was more so just my Cinderella story because I was seven feet.”
On the court, Pinkney stood out for his towering defensive presence at Archbishop Wood High School, as he made it his sole purpose to protect the rim and grab rebounds. The 7-footer with a slender man-like wingspan displayed exceptional mobility, as he could run up and down the court quickly. Pinkney, a three-star prospect, per 247Sports, did a post-graduate year at Montverde Academy before enrolling at Quinnipiac University in 2019.
“Seth was a hard worker, a great shot blocker, and got better every year, said John Mosco, the head coach at Archbishop Wood High School. “Fun kid to coach.”
Pinkney took a major step forward in his second season despite the pandemic, as his minutes doubled from 11.1 in 2020 to 25.9 in 2021. A year after playing extensive minutes as a freshman, he was now the lead center, who started in 21 of his 22 games played, and averaged 8.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and a team-best 2.3 blocks per game. The majority of Pinkney’s offensive production came through alley-oops and paint finishes, which led to him leading the nation in 2PFG% at 78.5% (62-of-79).
Pinkney knew he had physically and mentally toughened at the midway point last season. Quinnipiac paused all team activities on December 8 after multiple players tested positive for COVID-19. It wasn’t until until January 8 — 32 days removed from their last game — that Quinnipiac got back on the court to play Manhattan.
In a double overtime win, Pinkney played a career-high 42 minutes, scoring 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, while grabbing nine rebounds and blocking four shots.
“We just kept fighting these battles and then we came back to play Manhattan off of a month break and went into double overtime, and I played 42 minutes,” Pinkney said. “I never knew I could play 42 minutes until after that game.”
Following a first-round exit in the MAAC Conference Tournament, Pinkney decided to test the waters and enter the transfer portal. Despite the transfer portal being as overpopulated as ever, he knew what he brought to the table for programs around the country,
“I knew that I had put a name for myself that others didn’t during this year,” Pinkney said. “I knew that there were going to be a lot of heads in the portal because of the year we had.”
After receiving calls from West Virginia, Southern Utah, Towson, Murray State, UMass, Tulsa and St. Joe’s, Pinkney got on the phone with FIU assistant coach Jesse Bopp, which proceeded to a conversation with head coach Jeremy Ballard. The Panthers immediately impressed Pinkney, and it didn’t take long to receive his commitment.
“They just told me that I’m going to be their guy,” he said. “They’re going to try to create a team around me and try to build around em because they’re a young program and that’s what I like to hear. Being a young guy at a young school, this is a place for us to create and start something new that hasn’t been done for that. Coach Bopp also told me that everything they do is what I am.”
The addition of Pinkney fills FIU’s biggest need this offseason. Junior Dimon Carrigan was the Panthers’ only big man, followed by junior reserve forward Anthony Mason, and occasionally true freshman Dante Wilcox. Carrigan, 6-foot-9, was an exceptional shot-blocker, but couldn’t make up for the Panthers’ lack of height when rebounding. Mason, a JUCO transfer, needed more time to adjust to the level of play, as did Wilcox, who was in his first season.
Carrigan and Mason both entered the transfer portal following FIU’s worst season in the Ballard era, leaving Wilcox — 6-foot-6 — as the tallest player. And while the Panthers may play their own brand of positionless basketball, height is necessary, and it showed in 2020.
Last season, FIU ranked dead last in Conference USA in scoring defense (76.35 OPPG), field goal percentage defense (.472), rebounding defense (38.27), rebounding margin (-5.65), defensive rebounds per game (22.88) and defensive rebound percentage (.676). The Panthers also had the second-worst 3-point percentage defense (.360) in CUSA.
Pinkney, 7-foot-1, comes into FIU as the tallest player in all of Conference USA. His overwhelming height will certainly affect offenses in the conference, but his weight — listed at 200 pounds for the 2020-21 season — draws concerns.
“If he adds as little 15 pounds to his frame (particularly in his legs), he could turn into quite the unstoppable force,” said Jack Main, a beat reporter for Quinnipiac basketball.
Pinkney acknowledged over the phone that he hasn’t yet been able to thrive when battling with other big-men down low and in the post. Now 212 pounds, he’s set on gaining strength heading into next season.
“I’m definitely trying to add that physical category to my game,” Pinkney said. “Just trying to add on some weight, hopefully FIU will help me do that and get me some more stability and more technique.”
Pinkney, views himself as a true center who can move well and become a pick-and-roll threat. It’s clear that he doesn’t miss many shots in the paint, and when united with a pass-first guard like Tevin Brewer, the two can set up easy ally-oops, or create mismatches down low that’ll result in open corner threes for FIU — which made the most 3-pointers in the conference last season.
“At Quinnipiac, the offense was a four out one in, and that didn’t really fit my style of play,” Pinkney said. “I didn’t really get the ball as much, because it was more so one-on-one guard stuff. I didn’t really get like any ball screen action where I could roll and get moving, but hopefully at FIU, I feel like that’s what their style is, and it’ll be different than at Quinnipiac.
“I hope to prove that I can be a scorer, and that I’m not just a shot blocker,” “I’ve worked on earning the confidence to be an offensive player, and hopefully I’ll be able to show that, and hopefully I’ll be able to add some statue to my stats and then just be able to put on some weight. I want to show everybody that I’m not going to be skinny my whole life, I’m trying to get stronger. I want to be able to battle with some of the guys that I couldn’t battle with before.”
Pinkney, who enrolls on June 20, is seeking a degree in music engineering, which draws back to a dream that started before he played basketball.
“Originally, I started looking into music when I was around 10, and it was just a hobby for me,” Pinkney said. “I had a real good feel for music, and the music that was going on at that time was real powerful. I didn’t get into instruments or music that far because of basketball, it kind of held me back, but I always kept it in my back pocket as something that I would look into after basketball was over.”
Now in Miami, Pinkney can get the best of both worlds in music and basketball.
“I want to start creating music and just trying to get a better feel for music and just trying to get more involved in it,” Pinkney said. “And hopefully, basketball can help me get there.”