The news wasn’t all good for North Carolina on Wednesday after its 97-73 victory at N.C. State. Afterward, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said that Kenny Williams, the sophomore guard who has started 22 games this season, has likely been lost for the season.
Kenny Williams suffered a right knee injury in practice on Tuesday and is scheduled to undergo surgery early next week, Roy Williams said. Before UNC’s victory on Wednesday night, Kenny Williams watched his teammates warm up while he wore a gray suit. He stood on a pair of crutches.
“He’s probably out for the season,” Roy Williams said. “Unless we play until June. If we find some way to keep playing until June, he’ll probably be back.”
Kenny Williams had struggled offensively throughout much of conference play but, even so, he had remained one of the team’s best defensive players. He earned UNC’s defensive player of the game award four times in January, and he has earned that honor five times this season – second on the team.
Theo Pinson, who recently returned from an ankle injury, started in Williams’ absence on Wednesday. Pinson likely would have entered the season as a starter, but he suffered a broken bone in his right foot during preseason practice in mid-October, and that injury gave Williams the chance to start.
Pinson is UNC’s most versatile player, a 6-6 wing forward who is capable of playing four positions. At times he helps run the offense on the perimeter. At times, Pinson can score in the post, too. He is known for filling the box score in a variety of ways.
Pinson on Wednesday said he wouldn’t change much about his approach if he becomes a full-time starter, which is the likely outcome amid Williams’ injury. With Williams out, though, UNC will need Pinson to become a more consistent, stronger defender.
“Theo’s getting better on the defensive end, and then like I said, Theo has the length,” said Joel Berry, the junior point guard. “If someone has a two guard that’s pretty tall, Theo’s able to either get a hand up on the shot, or stay in front.”
Roy Williams didn’t explain the details of Kenny Williams’ knee injury. It was not an ACL injury, Roy Williams said, but the recovery time following the surgery essentially means that Kenny Williams won’t play again this season.
“It’s four to six weeks,” Roy Williams said. “But when you look at four to six weeks at this point in the year, it’s basically the end of the season.”
Kenny Williams has averaged 6.2 points and 3.3 rebounds this season. He has made 33.8 percent of his 3-point attempts, and he made three 3s during UNC’s recent victory against Notre Dame. He scored 11 points in that victory – the third time in conference play he’d scored in double figures.
The Tar Heels will miss Williams’ perimeter shooting. Most of all, they’ll miss his perimeter defense.