UNC's Marshall has wrist surgery; status uncertain

Sophomore point guard has surgery on broken wrist

acarter@newsobserver.comMarch 19, 2012 

— There was no joy on the bus ride home from Greensboro Sunday night after North Carolina's 87-73 victory against Creighton.

On that silent trek, there was no cause for celebrating an NCAA tournament victory that propelled the Tar Heels to Friday night's Midwest Regional semifinals in St. Louis.

Instead, all thoughts focused on Kendall Marshall, the sophomore point guard who suffered a fractured right wrist with about 11 minutes to play.

Monday, Marshall had surgery at UNC Hospitals to repair the broken scaphoid bone in his right wrist.

A statement released by UNC described the surgery as successful, yet it remains unclear whether Marshall will be available for top-seeded North Carolina when it plays against No. 13 seed Ohio on Friday night.

Coach Roy Williams spent a good portion of Monday at the hospital with Marshall and his father Dennis Marshall. It was a long and difficult day, Williams said. So he wasn't in the mood Monday night during his weekly radio show to speculate on Marshall's status.

"That's just a bunch of waste of time," Williams said.

Even so, he offered a bleak prediction a few moments later.

"My guess, and it's purely a guess, is Kendall will not play," Williams said. "But we really don't know anything."

By his teammates and by Williams, Marshall is regarded as the player North Carolina can least afford to lose. Not solely because he is averaging 9.8 assists - the highest average in ACC history - but also because the Tar Heels possess no proven replacement at point guard.

If Marshall is unable to play Friday, North Carolina would likely turn to a combination of Stilman White, a freshman, and senior Justin Watts to fill the void. Combined, they have averaged about 11 minutes of playing time per game.

Marshall, meanwhile, maintained his sense of humor after his surgery. He posted a message on Twitter that read, "Successful morning. Im (sic) screwed."

The reference alluded to the medical procedure, when Dr. Don Bynum inserted a screw to stabilize Marshall's scaphoid.

Dennis Marshall wrote in a text message to The News & Observer that his son's status was "questionable" for Friday.

"Surgery went well," Dennis Marshall wrote in another message. "KM in good spirits. Expect full recovery."

How quickly that recovery progresses, though, will determine whether Marshall can play Friday or beyond, should North Carolina advance.

Dr. Mark Galland, a Raleigh-area orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, said it typically would be possible for a basketball player to make a quick return after a scaphoid fracture.

"Particularly with the non-dominant hand, I certainly see a situation where he could play this week," Galland said, speaking in generalities about Marshall's type of injury. "And in the same situation, I would almost certainly be looking to accomplish the same objective if I were in the situation."

Marshall, who is left-handed, suffered the injury with about 11 minutes to play Sunday night. Driving to the basket for a layup, he collided with Creighton's Ethan Wragge, who was called for a foul on the play.

The contact knocked Marshall to the ground, and he braced his fall with his right hand.

Depending on the location of the break, a lack of blood flow in the wrist could delay the healing process, Galland said.

Still, he said the kind of procedure Marshall had - in which a screw is inserted to hold the broken pieces of bone together - could lead to a quicker recovery.

"The risks are quite small," Galland said of the potential drawbacks if Marshall were to attempt a quick return. "Because the stability provided by that type of (procedure) is very, very good. And it's an inherently stable situation. ... I would not be overly concerned by it."

Williams told the story of Tar Heels assistant coach Jerod Haase, who played for him at Kansas.

Haase, Williams said, suffered a scaphoid fracture in November 1996 and played 36 games before having surgery after the season.

Whether Marshall plays, though, is a question that will be answered another day. It's a question that's likely to loom until Friday.

In the meantime, Williams said he doesn't want his team wallowing in self-pity. It sounded like he wanted no more quiet bus rides.

"If you waddle around in that junk," he said, "that's where you stay."

Carter: 919-829-8944

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