North Carolina forward Sterling Manley practiced full court on Thursday, for the first time since he was sidelined the first week of January with a knee injury, UNC coach Roy Williams said.
However, Williams does not expect to play Manley on Saturday when No. 5 UNC (23-5, 12-2 ACC) takes on Clemson (17-11, 7-8). Manley has not played since Dec. 29 against Davidson and has missed 16 straight games with a sore left knee. Manley, a 6-11, 235-pound sophomore, averages 4.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
“Now it’s a tough situation, because you’ve got to be significantly better or I’m not going to put you in there,” Williams said. “It’s the bottom line. What’s best for that team may be what we already have and the rotation we have and the minutes we have. So if you’re going to try to come back at this time of year, you better be coming back really, really good.”
Since Manley’s injury, UNC rotation has shortened. Freshman forward Nassir Little, sophomore forward Garrison Brooks and junior wing Brandon Robinson have all gotten more minutes — and played well recently.
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The Tar Heels have won 11 of their past 12 games, and after their 93-85 win over Syracuse, clinched a top-three seed in the ACC tournament and a double-bye to the quarterfinals. The Tar Heels enter the Clemson game tied with Virginia for first place in the ACC.
Leaky Black update
Freshman guard Leaky Black will miss his ninth consecutive game since spraining his left ankle against Georgia Tech on Jan. 29.
After his injury, Black was on crutches and in a walking boot. He no longer uses either. Williams said Black still has not practiced in the half court or full court.
“I think Sterling is closer than Leaky,” Williams said. “And yet, Leaky looks good, he’s not limping any more. He just has some strength issues in that foot.”
Black was one of UNC’s better on-ball defenders this season before his injury. He averages 2.9 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.
UNC at Clemson
Where: Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson, S.C.
When: Saturday, March 2, 2019, 6 p.m.