Charles Hinkle's emergence as American's most potent offensive force germinated in offseason workouts and especially during the Eagles' summer trip to Europe.
There was only one problem — and an unusual one — for coach Jeff Jones.
"I'd yell at him 'Shoot the damn ball. Quit trying to make plays and just shoot it,' " Jones said. "Some guys would go an entire career and not have a coach tell them that."
Hinkle, though, isn't familiar with serving as a primary scorer. Far from it.
Not in high school. Not in his one year at a prep school. Not at Vanderbilt, where he played two seasons before transferring.
And not a year ago, when he played behind Vlad Moldoveanu and averaged 4.5 points and 13.1 minutes.
It would seem, though, the senior is making up for it this season.
Hinkle is one of two Division I players in the D.C. area averaging 20 points, along with Maryland's Terrell Stoglin, and leads the Patriot League in scoring (20.6 points per game).
"I never really averaged this many points in my life," Hinkle said. "It's something that's kind of amazing, but I try not to think about that."
Instead, he's trying to nudge the Eagles (9-6) into Patriot League contention over the next two months, starting with Saturday's visit by Colgate (5-8).
Hinkle considered American when initially choosing a school but opted for the appeal of playing in a major conference at a well-regarded school. Eventually, though, the absence of playing time became a concern.
There was just one variable Hinkle had to massage: selling a transfer to his mother, who did not finish college and wanted her son to graduate.
"That was the hardest thing to explain to her: I wanted to play basketball and I'll still get my degree, but I just want to have an opportunity to play somewhere else," Hinkle said.
Hinkle sagely sold it as a chance to attend a well-regarded business school and received his mother's blessing. The Eagles are equally grateful for her OK with Hinkle's scorching two months, but it didn't take long for them to realize how good the transfer could be.
"I'm not surprised in the least," junior guard Daniel Munoz said. "As soon as he came here from Vandy my freshman year, you could tell he had a shot. He could score off the dribble, he could shoot and he was a pretty smart player."
Munoz saw signs in the spring the 6-foot-5, 205-pounder was willing to command the ball. Over the summer, Hinkle sensed a change in his own play as he played a large role on offense for his summer league team in Los Angeles.
For his part, Jones was impressed with how Hinkle handled his work as a reserve without complaint. Once the season started, Jones believed Hinkle grew increasingly comfortable.
Now comes the balance of remaining aggressive without forcing shots against teams that know exactly who he is.
"He's got to understand now, and I thought he did a better job [Monday at Brown], is that it's his fault," Jones said. "He's earned respect. He's the first guy our opponents are going to talk about in their scouting reports now. He can't expect it to come as easy as it did in the first three or four games."
Injuries to senior guard Troy Brewer haven't helped American, which won eight straight before dropping its last four games in December. Brewer missed two games with a toe injury, and Jones said he will sit out Saturday with a sprained ankle.
That will place more attention on Hinkle, who has capably handled challenges throughout his breakout season.
"Seeing him here and the way he's handled the spotlight, he's really humble," Munoz said. "It's like he's been doing it his whole life."
Not bad for someone who hasn't at all.
"I'm just trying to take it as it comes, but it's a wild journey," Hinkle said.
One, the Eagles hope, with a more than a few high-scoring days to come.
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