North Carolina sophomore forward Sterling Manley appears to be closer to making a return.
Manley, who has missed the last nine games with a knee injury, has not practiced yet, according to UNC coach Roy Williams, but he has progressed.
“He’s doing some running now, they’re working him harder in the weight room, and so he has not practiced one second,” Williams said Friday.
Manley has not played since the Tar Heels’ game against Davidson on Dec. 29. Williams has not given a timetable for his return.
The 6-11, 235-pound forward is averaging 4.4 points per game and 4.3 rebounds, while averaging a little more than 11 minutes per game. During his freshman season, Manley averaged 5.4 points per game.
Manley has been on the bench in dress clothes in every game since his injury.
Without Manley, the Tar Heels are missing another inside presence and an extra body off the bench.
“A big guy like that makes a difference on the boards and defensively at the rim,” UNC sophomore Garrison Brooks said. “It helps a little bit when he’s out, it makes everybody play better, but I feel like when he comes back, we’ll be a lot better team.”
The Tar Heels are entering a rough stretch in their schedule with games against N.C. State, Miami, Virginia, Wake Forest, Duke and Florida State.
UNC sophomore Brandon Huffman has seen an increase in action lately. He played four minutes against Louisville, and played well. His minutes came during a crucial point in the first half when the Tar Heels were making their 22-4 run. UNC beat Louisville 79-69.
UNC (17-4, 7-1 ACC) will play N.C. State (16-6, 4-5) on Tuesday on Raycom Sports.
UNC freshman forward/guard guard Leaky Black missed Saturday’s game against Louisville with a sprained ankle. It is unclear how long he will be out. Black sat on the bench with a walking boot and crutches.
“It’s like missing two players really,” Williams said Friday. “Because it’s very seldom to the guy that can play the one, and then also play him at the two and three.”
Last week, Black tweeted his appreciation for the support from fans and said he would be back soon.