CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina's Marcus Ginyard has long been known as a basketball player who does a lot of "little things" -- score the occasional putback, make a key steal, play shut-down defense.
But after sitting out last season because of a foot injury, the fifth-year senior is determined to do one big thing in 2009-10: lead his team to another long postseason run.
"I catch myself watching the freshmen sometimes, and I get so excited about what they can do," he said last week. "And then I think about Deon [Thompson] and Ed [Davis] and Larry [Drew II] coming back -- and I think we're going to be awesome, to be honest with you. I just can't wait to get everybody back out there on the court, in our jerseys -- and to be there with them."
It's been more than a year since Ginyard -- who says he feels great and is back to 100 percent -- has played in a game while fully healthy.
After having surgery to repair the stress fracture in his left foot last October, he expected to return to the court by the start of ACC play. But the soreness lingered and his explosiveness suffered. He played 37 minutes over three games before he opted to apply for a medical redshirt. It allowed him to return for a fifth season but meant he had to cheer from the bench as his friends and teammates won the national title.
"Obviously, it was difficult to just watch," he said. "But just thinking ahead, and trying to see that next year I'd be playing and knowing that I made a great decision, and that things would work out ... that hope just kept me going."
It has also given him another opportunity.
Ginyard, who has played four different positions during his career, has always been known as a versatile defensive stopper. But with UNC's top four players gone -- mostly from the perimeter -- he has been steadfastly honing his ballhandling and decision-making skills in case he needs to help back up Drew, the new starting point guard.
He will probably return to his starting slot at wing guard, so he is also working on his outside shot in an attempt to increase his career 5.6 ppg average.
"I feel very, very confident right now in my jump shot," he said. "I'm excited to get out there and put it to use on the court. I feel great in pickup games, I'm ... trying to be more aggressive [by] not just in shooting, but in taking it to the basket. I almost feel stronger and more explosive in taking it to the basket now.
"I'm definitely looking to put it in the basket a lot more than I ever have."
But however much he scores, or how many different positions he plays, Ginyard's most important role will be team leader. After all, said coach Roy Williams, "Marcus has been there more in big games, at big times, than anyone else. ... And Marcus is a natural leader anyway."
Indeed, while Ginyard was mulling the decision last season about whether to redshirt, Williams said they discussed David Noel, a senior in 2005-06 who led Carolina back to the NCAA Tournament despite the loss of the top seven scorers from the 2005 NCAA title-winning team.
Ginyard was a freshman on that squad, and following in Noel's footsteps appealed to him.
"Whatever happened to David personally, he was still able to get the best out of his teammates ... there was never a day when we didn't look at him as 'David Noel, Leader of this Team.' " Gin yard said.
"Dave always talks about how we didn't quite make it to where we wanted to get that year. But I'm 100 percent certain that if you ask David Noel what was his favorite year in college, it was his senior year."
Ginyard is determined that his second senior season will be his favorite year, too. He's added a second major -- sociology -- to go with his communications degree. And he recently moved out of the house he shared with graduated teammates Tyler Hansbrough and Bobby Frasor, and moved in with current teammates Deon Thompson and Marc Campbell.
And after doing so many little things for so many years, he's ready to have a big, healthy, final season.
"It just gets me excited to know that I'm going to get to lead a young group, but still have a good group of veterans back," he said of the team that has already been picked in the top five of some early preseason polls. "I think we're going to be capable of a lot."
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