ATLANTA — All North Carolina junior forward John Henson could do was brace himself and hope for the best. With about 15 minutes to play in the first half of the Tar Heels 85-69 victory against Maryland on Friday in the ACC tournament semifinals, Henson collided in the air with the Terrapins Ashton Pankey.
The collision came after Henson had secured a rebound, and he was attempting a follow shot when Pankeys contact sent Henson tumbling. He lost his balance and his footing and used his left hand to break his fall. A media timeout provided Henson a brief reprieve, but he motioned to be taken out of the game after attempting a free throw.
When he left the game, he walked past the Tar Heels bench and straight towards their locker room. Henson later returned and played for 40 seconds before leaving the game again this time permanently. An x-ray on his left wrist, conducted at halftime, came back negative.
But that doesnt necessarily mean that Henson will play on Saturday when the Tar Heels face N.C. State in the ACC tournament semifinals at 1 p.m. at Philips Arena. Henson left the arena on Friday wearing a brace on his left wrist, and whether he plays Saturday wont be decided until the hours or minutes before the game.
I dont know, Henson said when asked whether hed play against N.C. State. Well see and, you know, well know tomorrow morning probably before the game.
Henson wanted to come back against Maryland.
I tried to go a couple of times, he said. I was back here with a manager catching and passing and trying to dribble, and I just couldnt. I dont think I would have helped the team if I was out there.
Henson described his wrist injury as a sprain. When he stepped to the free throw line in the moments after suffering the injury, he knew something was wrong as soon as he felt the ball hit his hands.
It hurt so much to hold the ball, he said. And thats when I knew I probably couldnt go.
And so he didnt. The question now, of course, is whether Henson will on Saturday.