07/28/2009 1:06 PM ET
Pinkston at work on and off court in Vegas
After summer school, a balance between games and books
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
Jayvaughn Pinkston has drawn comparisons to Jamal Mashburn as he enters his senior year in high school. (NY Daily News)

While many of his friends and teammates were playing at all-star basketball camps in Philadelphia and Akron, Ohio, earlier this month, Jayvaughn Pinkston sat in summer school courses at Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn.

"He's in Summer School All-American Camp," joked Kimani Young, the director of the New Heights AAU program and an adviser to Pinkston.

The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Pinkston wanted nothing more than to run up and down the court at the Reebok All-American Camp in Philadelphia in front of hundreds of major-conference Division I head coaches.

"Yes, it is," Pinkston said when asked if sitting out was hard. "I was looking forward to coming out and playing against some of the top players in my class.

"I'm trying to become a better student-athlete, so that's why I decided to go to summer school."

Fast-forward just a few weeks and Pinkston showed he was on a mission to make up for lost time.

Playing last week at the Adidas Super 64 event in Las Vegas, Pinkston outperformed Texas-bound forward Tristan Thompson of Grassroots Canada and scored a team-high 19 points in a 70-69 victory.

Grassroots Canada had been one of the hottest teams of the summer, winning 15 straight games with its main unit. They were coming off a 30-point trouncing of the Derrick Rose All-Stars, the team coached by Reggie Rose, the brother of the Chicago Bulls guard.

"It feels good," Pinkston said of the win. "We all came together as a team."

Pinkston caught the attention of Grassroots Canada coach Ro Russell when he drove through the paint and finished a layup high off the glass on the left side.

"He's strong. He's versatile for his size. He can finish to his left or his right. He plays real hard," said Russell, who has sent numerous players to the Division I ranks.

The 6-10 Thompson, who Russell said could one day be the best player ever to come out of Canada, finished with nine points in the game.

"He has really recreated himself as a basketball player," New Heights assistant Adam Berkowitz said of Pinkston.

Pinkston was hyped very early in his career and then seemed to disappear for a period before reasserting himself.

"When you have guys like ACC- and SEC- and Big East-type coaches furiously scribbling as he's guarding Tristan Thompson on the perimeter and shooting up shots and pushing the ball up the court, they see a lot of aspects to his game that maybe they didn't think he had," Berkowitz said.

Villanova head coach Jay Wright, Arizona coach Sean Miller, Tennessee's Bruce Pearl and Norm Roberts of St. John's followed Pinkston throughout his time in Sin City.

"He's a fierce competitor," said one Big East assistant coach. "He plays with unbelievable passion and toughness. He's a winner. He has tremendous upside because he's a guy that can really play inside and out. That's a tough cat right now."

Pinkston has been compared to former Kentucky and NBA star Jamal Mashburn and entered the summer ranked No. 85 in the Class of 2010 by Rivals. But Berkowitz thinks that's far too low at this point.

"I haven't seen nine guys in his class better than him, let alone 90," Berkowitz said.

Pinkston did work off the court in Vegas, too.

Before, between and after games in Vegas, Pinkston worked with the New Heights coaches on math and other assignments for summer school.

"We brought all his work and faxed it from the hotel," Berkowitz said.

The goal is to make sure Pinkston is eligible for college after his senior season at Loughlin.

Still, he nearly left the Big Apple to play for Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, a national powerhouse that features former Loughlin guard Doron Lamb.

"There was some thought of him transferring, but we feel confident after meeting with the coaching staff [led by first-year coach Ed Gonzalez] and the guidance counselors that Loughlin is the best place for him right now," Young said.

Pinkston hopes to lead Loughlin to a city title now that Lance Stephenson is out of the picture and at Cincinnati. Stephenson led Brooklyn Lincoln to four straight PSAL championships.

"If we work hard enough, the team could be good if we work hard enough and I play to my potential," Pinkston said.

As far as colleges, Young has previously said that St. John's was the leader for Pinkston, but now Young is no longer on the staff there, which could alter Pinkston's preference.

"On the St. John's thing, when I was there we had a strong connection and relationship," Young said. "The coaching staff has done a great job recruiting him, but, at the end of the day, Jay wants to see what opportunities are going to be out there for him."

Whatever happens, Pinkston says he'll wait until the late signing period next April to sign.

"I just want to wait out my options," he said.

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.com.
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