UNC Basketball: We’ve Been Here Before


When North Carolina Tar Heels point guard Kendall Marshall injured his wrist against Creighton, immediate questions about UNCs title plans came into focus.  Since it was revealed that Marshall had indeed fractured his right wrist while bracing a fall in the middle of the second half after being fouled on a lay in attempt the critics have been loud in their skepticism of Carolinas chances.

Everything I’ve read or heard from both the national and local NC media alike has been a somber tale of not if, but when the injury would ruin the Heels title chances.  The arguments are solid, Marshall is in fact the most indispensable player on Roy Williams‘ roster.  Marshall is the engine to everything the Tar Heels do offensively.  Both in getting the team out and running in the transition game and setting everything up in the half court.  To make matters worse, the sophomore PG is playing the best basketball of his young career.  Suddenly the pass happy, can’t shoot, no threat to score scouting report on Marshall has been laid to rest.  A new, dual threat, basket attacking, jump shooting, confident scoring machine has taken over.

The transformation of Kendall Marshall has been nothing short of extraordinary.  I personally believed it would take an entire summer working on his offensive game, especially his jump shot before he would become a legit scorer.  A real concern of mine heading into the postseason was Marshall’s scoring ability.  Throughout the season, teams played off Marshall, almost daring him to shoot, and to a degree, the strategy worked.  That is until Marshall met NC State with just three games to go in the regular season and put up a career high 22 points.  He then gutted Duke in the regular season finale with another 20 point performance.  Averaging a double-double in the ACC Tournament and becoming the first Tar Heel to EVER post back to back double-doubles with points and assists in NCAA Tournament history proved this was no fluke.  Kendall Marshall was a dual threat now, add that to the other elements of the Tar Heels game that was coming together at the perfect time, UNC looked to be back in the drivers seat for a national title.

Then the injury occurred and uncertainty settled in.  That uncertainty remains at an all time high and will remain until Marshall takes the court and plays at, or close to the level we are used to seeing him play at.  Just like 2009 when then UNC PG Ty Lawson was hampered with an injured toe.  Reading some archived stories from around the web published at that time and it’s eery how similar the situations are.  Replace toe with fractured right wrist and Lawson’s name with Marshall and you could almost copy/paste the same story and no one would notice.

Anybody remember what happened that season?  I do, I remember Lawson suiting up and the Tar Heels steam rolling through the NCAA Tournament and cutting down the nets as national champions.  Was Lawson the same player?  Nope, he wasn’t as fast and his lateral movement wasn’t as good as it was before the injury.  But #5 gutted it out, played through the pain and helped lead his team to the promised land.

Like a true warrior, just like another #5 we all know.  Less than 24 hours after the injury Marshall underwent surgery to insert a screw to fix the break.  Kendall’s father and coach Williams confirmed the surgery was successful.  Doctors have said the screw stabilizes the injury enough for the athlete to play and it is dependent on his pain tolerance.  If Marshall does play Friday against #13 seed Ohio, he will likely wear a soft cast or a heavy dosage of tape to help protect the wrist.  Facing a team like Ohio, UNC should be able to get by without Marshall playing extensive minutes and they might be able to get away with sitting him out entirely and resting the wrist for Sunday’s Elite 8 match up.

It won’t quite be a Willis Reed moment, but expect #5 to not only suit up but play hard and through the pain, just like old #5 did in 09.

Follow @Keeping_It_Heel
Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section (for help click HERE)