Evan Hinson put his body on the line, sprinting up and down the field on the Gamecocks special teams unit as they rallied from 16 points down to beat Michigan.
Banged up and bruised, he boarded a plane to come back to Columbia with the winner’s trophy in hand. For the other players on the team, the next few days were about rest and getting their bodies right.
Not Hinson. He hopped right off the team plane and was at Colonial Life Arena the same day to practice with the basketball team. After all, he had to prepare for Missouri.
“Evan was tackling people in the open field on special teams on January 1. He got off an airplane on January 2 and came straight to practice,” Frank Martin said. “No one asked him to come. No one said, “Evan we need you at practice.’ He came. He wants to be here. He’s excited to be here.”
That tenacity wasn’t lost on his head coach, who saw how well Hinson was practicing despite wearing shoulder pads less than two days earlier.
So well, actually, Hinson earned his first start of his career Saturday night against Vanderbilt.
He took the floor after just a few spot practices throughout the year, balancing time between the practice fields near Williams-Brice and the hardwood at Colonial Life.
But he came out, missing his first shot but hit his next, a driving layup. Then hit another shot. Then picked up two more rebounds.
By the end of the game, Hinson had six points on 2-of-4 shooting in what was almost his career-high in minutes with 13.
Hinson also started Tuesday’s road game against Alabama, a 76-62 loss, but picked up five points in a career-high 16 minutes and had two rebounds and an assist.
So as the Gamecocks (10-6, 1-3 SEC) continue through their SEC slate, Hinson may become a mainstay in the lineup.
“He brings an aggression, there’s no other way to word it, that you get when you put the chinstrap on,” Martin said. “I always had football guys on my high school teams. Always. Because they bring an aggression that you have to have. He brings a certain level of toughness.”
Since arriving on campus last year as part of Will Muschamp’s football team, the sophomore is splitting time between the two sports.
He’s played primarily on special teams in football, but is coming into his own with the basketball team.
He has an offensive rating, according to KenPom of 105.3, which is third on the team and has an effective field goal percentage right at 50.
It’s not bad for a player who’s still trying to build his confidence after just a handful of games in college.
His first real playing action was last year in the SEC Tournament against Alabama, where he had four points in four minutes which was less than a year ago, and he’s only played in eight games since then, so he’s still learning.
“That’s the first time I got playing time for real. The heads, things were flying. It’s a real game,” he said. “That game helped me out a lot to get my confidence up.”
He’ll try and take some of that confidence he’s built up and apply it to a team that’s struggled a little through SEC play. The Gamecocks have lost three of their last four conference games by an average margin of 10 points.
A lot of that confidence has come from football, where the team’s gone from winning just three games to nine this year during Hinson’s stint with the team. He was also around the Final Four team last year and doesn’t see why the team can’t get back to it’s winning ways this year.
“In football it wasn’t always like that. We had our ups and downs throughout the season,” he said. “Basketball you’re going to have some ups and downs. We can get to where we were like that.”