CHAPEL HILL — When North Carolina coach Roy Williams encountered John Henson Tuesday, the two went to shake hands. Henson reached out his right hand, and thats when Williams stopped him.
I said, No lets shake with the other hand, Williams said Tuesday. And he said, Oh, I can shake hands with you. So hes improving.
That Henson, the Tar Heels junior forward, can shake hands is one thing. It remains to be seen, though, whether hell be able to play basketball on Friday (4:10 p.m., TBS) when UNC begins play in the NCAA tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum.
The top-seeded Tar Heels will play against either Lamar or Vermont, a pair of No. 16 seeds who will vie tonight (6:40 p.m. truTV) for the right to play UNC. A sixteen-seed has never defeated a team seeded first, and its unlikely that Hensons services will be required on Friday for the Tar Heels to advance comfortably to the third round.
Still, Williams would like the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year back as quickly as possible, all the same. Henson suffered a sprained left wrist during UNCs victory against Maryland in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament Friday.
He wore a suit while he watched the Tar Heels defeat N.C. State in the ACC semifinals on Saturday, and then Henson dressed in uniform but did not play during UNCs loss against Florida State in the ACC tournament championship game.
During pregame warm-ups on Sunday, Henson appeared to struggle with dribbling. His team, meanwhile, struggled to defend the interior.
In two games without the 6-foot-11 Henson, UNC blocked just a single shot. Before Hensons injury, the Heels had never played two games without blocking at least five shots.
The shot-blocking and rebounding was a big difference, UNC senior forward Tyler Zeller said, speaking to what changed without Henson. I think James (Michael McAdoo) did a fantastic job of trying to fill in, but Johns a superior shot-blocker as well as rebounder
We had to make sure our guards were coming in to help us rebound even more.
The questions about Hensons status entering the tournament are not unlike those that surrounded Ty Lawson, the former UNC point guard, entering the 2009 tournament. Lawson suffered a toe injury late in the season that year, and he sat out the Tar Heels first tournament victory against Radford.
Asked whether Hensons injury might force him to sit out UNCs game on Friday, Williams said it was way too early to think about that.
Because Ty really couldnt go the day before the first NCAA game last year, he said. And were not at that point with John.
Williams was planning for a light practice on Tuesday, and he said Henson wouldnt participate in any live work. Hensons wrist swelled over the weekend, but that swelling decreased, Williams said.
Now the Heels are anticipating his return whenever it might come.
Selfishly, I missed him because thats two or three assists a game that are now gone, UNC point guard Kendall Marshall said. But John he affects the game in more ways than one. Obviously, with the double-doubles he puts up on a consistent basis, but more so the shots that he alters on a consistent basis on the defensive end
I think we did a great job covering up holes with him missing. And were looking forward to him coming back.