The men’s basketball team came into this season searching for someone to fill the void left by the departures of Vlad Moldoveanu and Stephen Lumpkins, the team’s top two scorers from a year ago.
Well, the Eagles found their answer.
Charles Hinkle, who averaged less than five points per game last season, has gotten off to a phenomenal start in 2011.
The senior is averaging 23.4 points per game through the first nine contests of the season, good for sixth in the nation.
“This summer, I put in a lot of work with my trainers and played a lot of pick-up games at UCLA,” Hinkle said. “All the work that I put in this summer is finally paying off.”
With Moldoveanu graduating, Lumpkins pursuing a baseball career and Troy Brewer’s ailing toe, Hinkle has also had more chances to score.
“Now that Moldoveanu and Lumpkins are gone, Charles has gotten more opportunities,” AU Head Coach Jeff Jones said. “Quite honestly, the fact that Troy is hurt has given Charles the opportunity [to score too], and he’s taken advantage of that. Good players, when you get the opportunity, step up and make the most of that opportunity, and he’s done that.”
Nearly all of Hinkle’s stats have improved from a year ago, especially his ability to get to the free throw line.
His 10 free throws and 12 attempts per game rank among the best in the country.
“The number of times he’s gotten to the line is just incredible,” AU point guard Daniel Munoz said. “Even if he’s not having a good night shooting, he always gets to the line and finds a way to score.”
Although scoring is his primary contribution to the team, Hinkle leads the team in other ways as well.
“Charles is a veteran guy, and he’s not just a scorer,” Brewer said. “He’s willing to do things that some guys aren’t willing to do, and guys look up to that, especially the younger guys.”
Learning behind a player like Moldoveanu, who signed to play with Italy’s Benetton Treviso this past summer, has helped Hinkle as well.
“Just learning from Vlad last year and how he carried the team definitely helped me,” Hinkle said.
Hinkle came to AU at the beginning of last year after spending two years at Vanderbilt University.
Jones was a deciding factor in Hinkle’s decision to transfer to AU.
“Coach Jones is a great coach,” Hinkle said. “I saw what he did in 2009, and I love the way he coached. I loved the style of play and how hard they played on defense.”
Although he’s only been at AU for a little over a year, Hinkle has already grown to be one of the leaders on the team.
“His personality is always positive, and he’s a good leader,” Munoz said. “When one of your best players is one of your hardest workers, it’s always a good thing.”
Hinkle’s style of play has continued to open up opportunities for his teammates through the early part of the season.
“He’s done a great job of getting into the lane and forcing people to come over and help,” Munoz said. “He’s taken a lot of pressure off other guys, and, with him playing well, we’ve had a more balanced attack. He’s really helped us win some games.”