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College basketball: Zeller ready to help

By Joedy McCreary
Associated Press
CHAPEL HILL ó Tyler Zeller couldn’t pass up a chance to play a meaningful role in North Carolina’s run at another national title.The 7-foot freshman broke his wrist two games into the season. Instead of sitting out and picking up another year of eligibility, 26 games into the Tar Heels’ season Zeller participated in his third college contest. He played minutes in North Carolina’s 89-80 victory over instate rival N.C. State on Wednesday.
“It is one of those things where I am losing half a season, but I know at the same time these are my teammates,” Zeller said. “I’ve got to help support them if I can help them in any way. … I feel like I’m obligated just because they have been great to me the whole time I have been injured.
“As I come back … if there’s anything I can do to help them out, to help them get to their goal of winning a national championship, then I will help.”
It wasn’t long ago that North Carolina took a hit when two other players were ruled out for the remainder of the season. The Tar Heels (24-2, 10-2 ACC) regained a measure of their once unrivaled depth with the earlier-than-expected return of Zeller.
Zeller started the season as the emergency replacement for then-injured Tyler Hansbrough but broke his left wrist late in the second game.
Team officials said at the time his season was likely over because the injury had a normal recovery period of 12-to-16 weeks. He started practicing a few weeks ago and, 13 weeks after he was injured, was back in a live game.
Coach Roy Williams now has to give Zeller a crash-course in the speed and intensity necessary to compete in the ACC.
“You’d like freshmen to be able to play some of those other opponents, other than just start out in the ACC,” Williams said. “I felt good about getting him some time. I think, in the long term, he’s going to help us, and that’ll really help him.”
Zeller got his first touch roughly a minute after checking in and knocked down a turnaround jumper. He also picked up four fouls in his limited playing time.
“He’s a lot better than he was” against N.C. State, Hansbrough said. “It takes a while for a guy that’s been out a lot to get back in the flow.”

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