The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

'It's who we have': Roy Williams, UNC facing unprecedented injury problems this season


Senior guard Brandon Robinson (4) walks off the court after an injury during the exhibition game on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. UNC beat WSSU 96-61.

In the first half of Friday's game against UNCW, Armando Bacot went down with an injury and didn't return. 

On Thursday, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said that the first-year center will play on Friday against Gardner-Webb, but Bacot only played three minutes in the game against the Seahawks. 

Junior big man Sterling Manley and first-year guards Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis are all out with lower body injuries, with no timetable as to their respective returns, while senior guard Brandon Robinson suffered a sprained right ankle in this year's exhibition game against Winston-Salem State. All have yet to play a second for North Carolina in 2019-20.

On Thursday, Williams indicated that both Harris and Francis had started half court practices with the team, but that Robinson and Manley were still not participating in any activities with the team. 

After the game last Friday, when asked if he's ever had to face an injury bug this vicious, Williams kept it simple.

"No," he said.

Against the Seahawks, Williams used just seven players in meaningful game time, while four Tar Heels played 32 or more minutes. That lack of depth would test any coach, but it's likely even worse for Williams, who makes a point of turning to his bench early and often.

“I can play eight or nine, easily, and sometimes even 10, and give them enough minutes, enough playing time that they're satisfied with it, but you've got to have depth in this game,” he said.

Without that depth, UNC has been forced to lean on the talents of a small few to carry the load offensively. First-year guard Cole Anthony had 34 points in the season opener against Notre Dame. He also had a game-high 20 against UNCW, while forwards Justin Pierce and Garrison Brooks both added 18.

Against the Irish, though, only Brooks, who had 10 points, and Anthony cracked double digits. Their teammates know that won't cut it.

“Cole had a monster night (against Notre Dame), and we know we can’t rely on that for us to be successful,” Pierce said after the UNCW game.

In both of UNC's first two games, Anthony jacked 24 shots and played an average of more than 36 minutes.

“He said, ‘Coach, I’m ready to go 40,’” Williams said after Notre Dame. “I don’t want him to do that very often, to say the least.”

If this were the NBA, the Tar Heels would be in big trouble, but seeing as North Carolina never plays more than three times in a week, Williams should look to lean heavily on Anthony while his other players work to make it back to the court. This offseason, those in the program raved about the star first-year's superb conditioning; early in the season — likely Anthony's only one in Chapel Hill before going pro — his conditioning will be put to the test.

As for when UNC's injured players could see the court? Williams isn't sure, but he doesn't see the problem going away anytime soon.

“I think it is going to be something we have to deal with all season and it concerns us a great deal, but they don't let us go out and draft and there's no list that we can take anybody off the waiver list,” Williams said. “It's who we have.”


@DTHSports |

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.