UNC Basketball: How Tar Heels can survive the injury to Cameron Johnson

CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 10: (L-R) Cameron Johnson
CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 10: (L-R) Cameron Johnson /

UNC is down but not out after losing Cameron Johnson for 4-6 weeks to a meniscus injury.

Cameron Johnson was poised to be one of the main offensive threats for a UNC team in the midst of a championship defense.

Johnson fit the bill after the first taste of UNC Basketball in the exhibition game against Barton College. The transfer from Pittsburgh led the team in shot attempts with 12 and three-point attempts with 6.

After missing the first game of the season to a neck injury, Johnson suffered a torn left meniscus during practice.

The original return timetable of 4-6 weeks puts his return around late December. This means he will more than likely be back for the start of Atlantic Coast Conference play.

In the meantime, UNC will have to adjust to the loss of a veteran playmaker.

No team ever wants to lose a player to injury, but cases like this often lead to younger players earning valuable minutes.

In UNC’s game against Bucknell, we saw Kenny Williams start at shooting guard while Theo Pinson slid to small forward.

Pinson responded by scoring a career-high 19 points to go along with 6 assists and 5 rebounds.

Williams went 4-7 from the field for 10 points and won Roy’s defensive player of the team award.

Behind the two upperclassmen came Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek who played 15 and 14 minutes respectively. Seventh Woods also contributed 10 minutes while primarily backing up Joel Berry.

If UNC is to remain a team to fear during the next month, the Tar Heels will need more production from the three. Felton, Platek, and Woods combined for merely 6 points in their 39 combined minutes.

Surprisingly, the solution for a lack of experienced backcourt depth has been to feed the inexperienced frontcourt. The Heels are pounding the paint as much as ever and it has paid dividends.

Luke Maye has been phenomenal averaging 23 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting a blistering 71 percent from behind the arc. Freshmen Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley have been better than anyone could have expected through two games.

Brooks has started both games and is averaging 12 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting a team-leading 75% from the field. Manley is averaging a double-double with 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in only 15.5 minutes.

UNC will need this production as they face a stacked field in the inaugural PK80 Tournament.

Relying on freshmen is something that keeps Roy Williams up at night, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The frosh big men will receive heavy usage while inexperienced backcourt players in Felton, Platek, and Woods will need to produce when called upon.

Nothing is right about Cam Johnson’s  injury except that it’s not for the whole season. If anything can shine a light in a dark situation its the fact that young players will be earning valuable game experience.

By the time the ACC Season starts, the young backcourt players will have the polish needed to contribute in crucial situations. The Heels will be poised to tear into the ACC at the top of their game.

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In the meantime, UNC will have to stay afloat in a rigorous regular season. If they can manage that, there is all the reason to love their chances heading into the ACC play and the postseason.