Then after seven games, Ronald Curry returned to the court from the football field, pushing Boone into the role of backup.
And lately, Boone has been excelling in that role.
"When I go in for Ronald, I expect out of myself to keep things at the same level if we were playing well," Boone said. "And if we're a little stagnant, to elevate things."
So when Curry fouled out of Saturday's win against Georgia Tech with 5:59 remaining, UNC coach Matt Doherty calmly sent Boone in to face the trapping Yellow Jacket defense.
And Boone produced. He reached career-highs with 10 points and five rebounds, handed out two assists and hit a crucial jumper as the shot clock expired.
"He did a great job," UNC forward Jason Capel said. "He kept his composure, played smart, knocked in some shots and he's a great defender. There really wasn't a letdown when he got in the game."
The same was true in UNC's victory against Duke last Thursday. Boone played 15 solid minutes while Curry struggled through foul trouble and a bruised thigh. Boone didn't score, but he didn't throw the game away either. He handed out three assists and had just two turnovers against the Duke pressure.
"It opened a lot of people's eyes where we have more than one point guard, where the team doesn't change, where we can get the job done if I'm not in the game," Curry said.
Here's to starting the campaign for Julius Peppers as sixth man of the year.
Boone put Peppers' name in the running after the forward produced 14 points and four rebounds Saturday against Georgia Tech.
"Julius is a big force on our team," Boone said. "To come off the bench with a guy like Julius Peppers -- he's definitely one of the best, if not the best guy off the bench in the country."
Peppers has averaged 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds since joining the team on Dec. 23. The 6-foot-6, 270-pounder also provides plenty of muscle down low.
Peppers and Georgia Tech forward Michael Isenhour got tangled up under the rim at one point, and Isenhour drew a technical foul for throwing an elbow.
"I was just trying to get my arm back," said the 6-8, 248-pound Isenhour. "He just pushes on you and pushes on you and pushes on you. He's so strong."
Doherty hopes to have Peppers, who thought about leaving school for the NFL in January, on his roster again next season. After Peppers threw down one of his now-patented jams against Georgia Tech, Doherty leaned over to Curry for help.
"I said, 'Ronald, he better play basketball next year,'" Doherty said. "Ronald kind of shrugged his shoulders.
"Like Ronald, he seems to feel more comfortable each and every game."
'A Real Rebounding Guard'
Everyone knows sophomore Joseph Forte can fill it up. He's scoring nearly 23 points per game, and hit for that many Saturday against Georgia Tech.
But it's actually his rebounding that's been getting a bit more notice lately.
Forte pulled down 16 boards, the most ever for a UNC guard, Thursday against Duke and followed that up with nine more in Saturday's win.
"We've played two teams that take a lot of 3s," Doherty said. "When there's long shots, there's long rebounds and you have to go after the ball. And he's built for that type of thing. He's quick, he's strong, he has quick hands and a nose for the basketball. He's a real rebounding guard."
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