Roy Williams said at his radio show on Monday night that Joel James will not play tonight and is unlikely to play when Carolina opens ACC play at Wake Forest on Sunday evening. "Today he did running for the first time," Williams said. "They've really limited the things he can do. He's been in the pool and doing stationary work...He's getting close, and it won't be a long time that we are without him."
In James' absence, the Tar Heels have started Brice Johnson, who has shot an uncharacteristic 8-for-21 in those three games (James was injured very early in the Texas game). Williams, who loves having reserves who can contribute instant offense, indicated James will likely slide back into the starting lineup when he returns. "When he's ready to go," the head coach said, "he will probably start again."
There's more on how James' absence has affected the Tar Heels in today's free issue of CAROLINA, which can be downloaded through the iTunes store on your iPad or viewed on the web here.
Areas of improvement: It wasn't hard to discern what Williams' New Year's resolutions might be for his team. "There are three things I'm not happy with," he said. "How we're defending, how we're running and how we're rebounding. Those are the things we're trying to focus on."
The Tar Heels actually rank in the top 20 in Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency statistics, but have been hurt at times on dribble penetration this year. The rebounding numbers--which Williams called "the most important factor in the game"--are a little more worrisome. Before the first game was played this season, Williams indicated the backboards as an area his team had to dominate. But in two of Carolina's losses (UAB and Texas) the opposition has controlled the glass.
A player to watch in that department is Kennedy Meeks. The freshman has been a rebound gobbler when he's been in the game, but other factors have kept him from becoming a regular presence in the rotation. Meeks played a season-high 24 minutes in the win over Louisville, but that's the only game this season in which he has broken the 20-minute mark.
Briefly: Tuesday's rare 5 p.m. start will be part of the first-ever #HappyBlueYear festivities, as Carolina will wear blue jerseys at home for just the second time in the Smith Center era...Sean May attended the win over Northern Kentucky and has been a regular attendee at practice. The 2005 Final Four Most Outstanding Player is coming back from a broken foot. Williams had high praise for May's basketball savvy, calling him "one of the three or four smartest guys on the court I've ever coached" and indicating that May could have a future in coaching if he so chooses. "When Sean played his last year with us, I felt like I could put him in any position on the court," Williams said. "He knew what every position on the court was supposed to do...If you don't see the big picture offensively and defensively, you will not be a good coach."...
Williams was asked about his own coaching plans for the future. "I've said I want to go six to ten more years," he said. "As long as I feel OK...I really do enjoy it. These last seven months have been the most difficult time I've had in the last 26 years (as a head coach). But when I go out on the court, even when I get frustrated, I love it."
Adam Lucas is the editor of CAROLINA.