WILLIAMS: Blake Hinson has no interest in talking about the Clones

Mar 14, 2023; Dayton, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers forward Blake Hinson (2) reacts to a play in the second half against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at UD Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

GREENSBORO, N.C. — When T.J. Otzelberger was named Iowa State’s head coach almost exactly two years ago from this day, former Mississippi transfer Blake Hinson was potentially going to be a key piece of the program’s rebuild. 

Until he wasn’t. 

Hinson, who was recruited to Iowa State under Steve Prohm, left the program before ever playing a game under Otzelberger. 

Frankly, it turned out to be a brilliant move on his behalf. 

Hinson has been an incredible offensive asset under Jeff Capel at Pitt. The former Rebel, and kind of former Cyclone, was recently named to the All-ACC second-team after averaging 15.5 points per game. Hinson scored in double-digits 29 times this season and is one of only three places in the ACC to average over 15.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. 

Pitt’s turnaround this season has come at a good time too. In his four previous seasons, Capel’s program had yet to reach an NCAA Tournament – or even notch a winning record. He very well could have been fired this offseason if not for the 180-degree reversal in production.  

In Capel’s fifth season, the Panthers have won an impressive 12 more games than that of a year ago – and eight more in ACC play. Hinson has been a huge part of that turnaround. 

But Hinson made it very clear on Thursday that doesn’t want to talk about his time or exit from Iowa State. 

“I would rather not say,” Hinson replied when asked about leaving Ames. 


Well, do you still keep in contact with any of the guys at Iowa State? 

“No,” he said. 


T.J. Otzelberger gave a more political view of the situation on Wednesday. 

“I’ll say this about Blake, he came to Iowa State to play for a different coach. There was a change that was made. There are no hard feelings. He felt it was best for him to go elsewhere. He’s done great with it. I think there’s nobody that hasn’t done well in that scenario, right? He’s having a great career at Pitt. Our programs are in a great place. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

I really appreciated what Jeff Capel had to say. 

“For us, it’s Pitt against Iowa State. It’s not Blake against Iowa State or Iowa State against Blake. They have an outstanding team. They have an outstanding coaching staff. They’ve done an incredible job, T.J. has, in his second year. The run they made this year, they played in an incredible conference. We have our hands full with Iowa State, not just the emotion of — or not just the emotion of Blake playing against Iowa State.”

Nailed it. 

Is this an interesting side story leading up to Friday’s NCAA Tournament game?

Absolutely. I woke up charged to learn more about the situation and write about it. 

Does this actually matter?

Not really. Both can be true. But it’s still interesting. A lot of these Iowa State guys know Hinson well. 

“Just gonna play him like any other opponent,” said Robert Jones. “Just like we played Tyrese earlier in the year twice. Just going to be another guy we’ve got to take down.” 

Without saying anything, Hinson made it quite clear that he doesn’t have warm feelings about his time in Ames. It was smart of him to not air any grievances 24 hours before tip. That would have been beneficial to nobody, except an Iowa State coaching staff scrapping for last-second bulletin board material to show its team. 

Think about it from Hinson’s perspective: He committed to play for a coach (Prohm) who I’m sure promised him as many shots as he could get off in a game. Then, that coach got fired and a man with a totally different basketball philosophy took over. 

This is why the transfer portal is a good thing. 

Hinson said that he is as happy as he has ever been at Pitt and the Cyclones are about to play in their second NCAA Tournament in a row two years after going 0-19 in conference play. 

Otzelberger was right. It was a win-win.