College Basketball: Injury bug already hits North Carolina
CHAPEL HILLó Marcus Ginyard propped his left leg up on a chair, putting the heavily bandaged cast on display for all to see. Not that the injury could go unnoticed for North Carolina once the season starts.
Ginyard, who had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot last week, is the Tar Heels’ do-everything swingman and best perimeter defender. His recovery will keep him out eight weeks, forcing a team that enters the year as the favorite to win the national championship to replace one of their most valuable players for the first month of the season.
“It’s going to come down to who’s going to step up and do that,” Ginyard said Friday during the Tar Heels’ annual preseason media day. “I have no doubt in my mind there’s a number of players on the team that have a great opportunity to do it and have the ability to do it. I don’t think it’s going to take long for that person to emerge, so I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen.”
If anything, few teams can withstand that kind of blow better than the Tar Heels, who return their top six scorers from a team that won a school-record 36 games and reached the Final Four. There was certainly no denying the returning talent when scanning the Smith Center floor Friday.
In one chair sat Tyler Hansbrough, the reigning national player of the year. A few feet away sat Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green, who entered their names as underclassmen into the NBA draft before deciding to return to school. On the court, touted rookies Larry Drew II and Tyler Zeller worked on their jumpers since the program doesn’t allow freshmen to talk until after their first game, a rule that began under Dean Smith.
But while there are no shortage of scorers, rebounders and guys ready to run in coach Roy Williams’ fast-paced offense, Ginyard’s injury ó and the transfer of big man Alex Stepheson to Southern California ó hits the Tar Heels in an area that was probably their biggest question mark from last year: defense.
Ginyard started all 39 games and averaged 6.9 points and 4.5 rebounds last year. He played four positions, from backup point guard when Lawson went down with an ankle injury to seeing time at power forward during the ACC tournament championship win against Clemson. But he played through lingering pain in the foot and wore a boot at times while playing through what team officials called a stress reaction.
On Friday, Ginyard used crutches to get around while his toes were barely visible as they peeked out from the top of his cast.
“You’re losing your best defender, a guy who gets more of the cheap baskets, offensive rebounds, steals than anybody on your club,” Williams said. “You guys as writers and we as coaches always like to talk about somebody who does all the little things, so you’re missing somebody doing that early. But hopefully over the course of that time where he’s rehabbing and getting healthy, he might be able to sit back and look and observe and maybe gain something.”
Green, a 6-foot-5 senior, is likely to start in Ginyard’s absence. As North Carolina’s sixth man last year, Green was fourth on the team at 11.5 points per game and joins Lawson, Ellington, Hansbrough and Deon Thompson in what is probably the Tar Heels’ best offensive lineup.
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