Knee Replacement Scheduled for Roy Williams

UNC head coach Roy Williams is scheduled to undergo knee replacement surgery later this month.

Williams has gone through several surgeries over the past few years, on his shoulder and a couple of minor knee operations. But it was clear Williams was struggling with knee pain during the basketball season that ended in the national championship game last month.

Williams told reporters about the scheduled surgery at the ACC Spring Meetings in Florida.

After it was initially reported that Williams would have both knees replaced, UNC officials clarified that Williams would only have surgery to replace his right knee later this month and that “no decision has been made yet whether or not to have the left knee replaced, and if so, when.”

Recovery time following knee replacement surgeries varies among different patients, but Williams said he anticipates being back in action in July during a busy recruiting season.

Chansky’s Notebook: Committee of One

Chansky’s Notebook: Meeks Learns The Easy Way

Kennedy Meeks coming back makes both him and is team dangerous.

When Kennedy Meeks announced his was pulling out of the NBA draft, it was the second biggest story on Not because it was such earth-shattering news, but it is the first nugget of truth to the new system the NBA and colleges are using to let players test the waters.

Meeks and Justin Jackson were the two UNC underclassmen who put their names into the NBA draft and did not hire agents, making it possible for them to reverse the process and return to play for Carolina next season. It was an easy choice for Meeks, who is in good academic standing and was NOT invited to participate in the NBA combine of coaches and scouts. Jackson was invited, and he remains in the draft for now.

Meeks not being among the 70 invitees was proof enough that he is not yet good enough to be a first-round NBA draft pick. And it is not like he was ready to leave college, a projected draft pick or not. Meeks now knows that one off-season and his senior year stand between his next chance, and he had better make the best of it. He will work hard to maintain his playing weight and gain the explosiveness around the basket that left him a below the rim player last season.

Should he do that, Meeks and Isaiah Hicks will form one of the best low post tandems in both the ACC and college basketball. And despite the loss of Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige, the Tar Heels will still be a very dangerous team in 2017. If Jackson learns that he, too, needs another year of schooling to be a first-round pick, he will also return to UNC with the incentive to make both himself and his team that much better.

It is still not a perfect system, but testing the NBA waters is now more of a science than someone’s family and friends saying, “Hey, you are ready; you will go in the first round.” Not being invited to the combine told Meeks in a far more objective manner that he isn’t ready. He still could have remained in the draft and, if not picked in the second round, tried out as a free agent. But he did not squander his best option.

So Kennedy Meeks is back in Tar Heel blue. Both the player and the program should be better off for it.

Kennedy Meeks to Return For Senior Season

Kennedy Meeks will return to UNC for his senior season, the school announced on Wednesday.

In his first three seasons, Meeks has averaged 9.4 points and 6.5 rebounds and shot 55.4 percent from the floor in 104 games.  He has started 77 of those 104 games, including 28 games in the 2015-2016 season.

Meeks was one of two Tar Heel underclassmen to declare for the NBA Draft.  Because he did not sign with an agent, he still had the option to return for his senior season of college basketball.

Justin Jackson also declared for the NBA Draft.  Like Meeks, he did not sign with an agent which means he can return to play for the Tar Heels if he chooses.  Unlike Meeks, Jackson received an invitation to next week’s NBA Combine.  He is allowed to participate in that event and does not have to make his final decision until May 25.  The draft is June 23.

Meeks explained his decision in a statement:

“I’m thankful I had the chance to explore my draft options, but I’m excited about the opportunity to rejoin my teammates and work toward having another outstanding season at UNC.  I appreciate the support my coaches and teammates gave me during this process as we gathered information about my professional opportunities at this time. The feedback on what I have to work on so that I can have a great senior year, help my team have a great season and be ready to take that next step is invaluable.”

“Kennedy did the right thing in taking the time to see where he stood with the NBA Draft at this point in his career, an opportunity we encourage all of our players to take,” says Carolina head coach Roy Williams in a release. “I think Kennedy’s made the right decision in returning to school to finish his degree and put himself in better position toward playing professional basketball, which is his dream. If he works hard this summer, he can have a big-time senior season and also help our team reach its goals.”

Kennedy Meeks needs only 19 points in his senior campaign to become the 73rd 1,000-point scorer in Carolina history.

Chansky’s Notebook: Ellington Chose Action Over Grief

Carolina’s Wayne Ellington has turned sorrow into meaningful action.

Ellington, the Most Outstanding Player at the 2009 Final Four in Detroit, has had to live with more than the normal ups and downs of a pro athlete. In 2014, his father was shot to death while sitting in his car on the mean streets of Philadelphia.

Ellington wrote a letter titled ‘Pops’ in The Players’ Tribune

Ellington channeled his grief into several anti-gun violence programs, such as being the featured speaker in Philly’s Peace Day “March for Peace” and joining other pros to run the fourth annual Peace League Tournament, which also aims to curb gang violence in Chicago.

He then launched the non-profit “Power of W.E.,” which will run the Philadelphia Peace Games in August, bringing members from rival gangs together in one of the basketball games that will be played on a court Ellington raised money to build with permanent messages about gun control and gangs.

In February of 2016, while Ellington’s Brooklyn Nets team was in the middle of a dismal, 21-61 season, the man who shot and killed Wayne Ellington, Sr., was sentenced from 30-60 years in prison after pleading guilty to third-degree murder. Ellington said it brought some kind of closure to his family but, obviously, will never bring his dad back.

Then last month, Ellington received the prestigious J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award from the Pro Basketball Writers of America. Kennedy was the second commissioner of the NBA, and the honor goes to an NBA player who shows outstanding leadership in the community. Ellington had to beat out current NBA stars LeBron James, Chris Paul, John Wall and George Hill for the award.

Ellington also sponsored the New York City grassroots program, the Rens, with the first youth league teams to wear orange patches on their uniforms as a statement against gun violence. Ellington bought and donated more than 2,000 Nets tickets for youth groups all over the city.

Hats off to Carolina’s Wayne Ellington, who turned his father’s senseless killing into something very special.

Johnson and Paige Honored at End-of-Year Ceremony

UNC seniors Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige were both honored on Tuesday evening during the men’s basketball team end-of-year awards ceremony.

Johnson won the Dean Smith Most Valuable Player award after the forward put together one of the best seasons in UNC history. Meanwhile, guard Marcus Paige won the Defensive Player of the Year award; this marked the first time that one player won that award four times over the course of their career.

UNC was gathering to celebrate a season that saw the Tar Heels enter the year as the preseason No. 1 team in the country and eventually make a run to the national title game. Carolina had some unexpected challenges, including Paige missing the first portion of the season with a broken right hand and a shooting slump that rendered the senior lefty’s jump shot nearly unrecognizable.

Even through the shooting woes, it was clear Paige was still the leader of the team and his shooting as the season drew to a close was what both Paige and UNC fans had come to expect of him. That culminated in Paige hitting an acrobatic-double-pump three pointer to tie the national championship game against Villanova with less five seconds left in regulation. We don’t have to remind you what happened next.

Paige, from Marion, Iowa, was also the first player in UNC history to be named a permanent team captain in three seasons at Carolina. Paige also won the Tyler Zeller Award given to the team’s top scholar-athlete and the Marvin Williams Carolina Way Award for “playing hard, unselfishly and putting the team first,” on Tuesday.

Johnson, from Orangeburg, South Carolina, made a huge jump between his junior and senior seasons, becoming one of the most dominant big men in college basketball and thrusting himself into the discussion of being a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. Johnson led UNC with 17 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and led the entire Atlantic Coast Conference by shooting 61.4 percent from the field. Johnson also amassed 23 double-doubles on the season on his way to becoming a consensus first-team All-American.

Johnson, Paige and Joel James are leaving the program after exhausting their eligibility. Two other members of the team that went to the national title game – Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks – have entered the NBA Draft but have not hired an agent, leaving open the possibility of a return to Carolina.

The Tar Heels Will Win It All In 2018. Here’s Why.

So the 2015-16 Tar Heels turned out to be a team of destiny after all…

…it just wasn’t quite the destiny we wanted.

After a year of preseason accolades, hype, doubt, and triumph, Brice and Marcus and crew stormed through the ACC tourney and ran all the way to the NCAA title game, only to come up juuust short at the hands of stupid Villanova and stupid Kris Jenkins’ stupid last-second 3.

Great game. Memorable season. Just not quite a national title.

But never fear!

I’m calling it right now: Carolina will win the NCAA championship in 2018.

Tar Heels Coach Roy Williams

Roy Williams (Photo by Todd Melet)

How can I be so sure?

Because we’ve seen this story before.

Seventeen years before, to be precise.

Go back to 1999. March 29, St. Petersburg. Usually some interloping 3- or 4-seed sneaks into the NCAA final, but that year’s final featured undeniably the two best teams in the nation. On the one side, the Big East champion (Connecticut rather than Villanova), seeking a title after several years of coming up just short. On the other side, the ACC champ (Duke rather than UNC), seeking its first national title in…yep, exactly seven years.

It would have been the third overall for their legendary coach.

Is this sounding familiar?

Both teams brought their A games. Back and forth the whole way. Duke scored 39 first-half points and led at halftime – just like Carolina did – but UConn came back and pulled out a thrilling victory in the closing seconds.

Final score? 77-74. Yes, exactly the same as UNC-Nova. Look it up.

And two years later, Duke won the NCAA title.

So that’s it. I’m calling it. The similarities are too eerie. It can’t be coincidence, y’all. It’s got to be destiny.

Tar Heels! 2018 national champions!

(Provided the NCAA doesn’t get in the way, of course.)

And while I’m making wild predictions, don’t worry: Marcus Paige will get his NCAA title too. Twenty years from now. After he takes over for Hubert Davis as UNC’s head coach.

(Try to remember you heard it here first.)

A Far-Too-Early Look at 2017 UNC Basketball

UNC Welcome Home Celebration Tuesday Afternoon

UNC fans can come out to the Dean Smith Center on Tuesday afternoon and welcome home the North Carolina Tar Heel basketball team.

The Tar Heels lost in the national championship game 77-74 on a buzzer-beating three pointer form Villanova forward Kris Jenkins.

The team is scheduled to arrive back in Chapel Hill outside Entrance D at the Smith Center at approximately two o’clock Tuesday afternoon.

Parking will be available in the Manning, Bowles and Craige lots.

Brothers Jenkins and Britt Prepare for National Championship Showdown

Kris Jenkins has grown into being one of the best players on a Villanova team that will be playing for the national championship on Monday night.

But Jenkins may not be on the Villanova roster right now preparing for a national championship game without his brother, who he will be playing against on Monday, Nate Britt.

The story of the brotherhood of Jenkins and Britt gained national attention when Jenkins was spotted cheering for UNC in the Elite Eight after Villanova had already advanced to the Final Four.

While the two are not brothers by blood, Britt’s parents have been Jenkins legal guardians since 2007.

“We were recruiting Nate,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said describing the unique recruiting process that led to the Wildcats landing Jenkins. “And we liked Kris. But we just thought, you know what, he’s overweight, and he’s not going to come in and do all the stuff we do.”

Wright said that he told Jenkins that he liked his game, but things would not be easy for him if he came to Villanova.

“You’re going to have to come in here and change your diet; you’re going to have to work out hard; you’re going to have to get your body fat tested,” Wright recalled telling Jenkins. “That’s what we want you do.”

Wright said that Nate Britt Sr. later told the coaching staff that Jenkins loved what he heard in that meeting.

“And we said, to each other, ‘Hey, if he loved that, we want this guy,’” Wright remembered telling other members of the coaching staff.

Wright added that it has been impressive to watch Jenkins develop.

“He came in from day one and as a college freshman had to watch what he ate, had to get tested every morning, had to ride a bike extra to get his weight down. It’s unbelievable. And he continues to get better and better. I think you haven’t even seen the best of him yet.”

Jenkins and Britt played together in high school and have not met during their collegiate careers.

On Monday night, they will meet on the biggest of stages.

Art’s Angle: Back-To-Back Final Fours

HOUSTON – Carolina’s appearance here marks the 14th time that one Triangle Area college team has followed another to the Final Four the next year.

Roy Williams

Roy Williams. (Photo by Todd Melet)

Fourteen times among UNC, Duke and N.C. State. Pretty amazing.

It began when Duke played in its third Final Four of the decade in 1966. The next year, Dean Smith’s Tar Heels made the first of three consecutive trips. Here are the other 13 times:

  1. Carolina played in the 1977 national championship game, losing a heartbreaker to Marquette and retiring coach Al McGuire. Duke came back in 1978, losing the NCAA title to Kentucky and Jack Goose Givens’ 41 points.
  2. Smith’s team finally cut down the nets in New Orleans in 1982, and the next year Jim Valvano’s Cinderella Wolfpack did the same in Albuquerque.
  3. Fast forward to 1991, when Duke went to the Final Four for a fourth straight year, and this time Carolina went, too. The Tar Heels lost to Kansas on semifinal Saturday; the Blue Devils won the title by upsetting UNLV and beating the Jayhawks on Monday night.
  4. Duke returned for the fifth straight time in 1992, winning its second straight.
  5. The 1993 Tar Heels, a veteran team admittedly sick of reading and hearing about Duke, Duke, Duke in the same media market reached the Final Four and won Smith’s second NCAA title in New Orleans.
  6. But the Blue Devils went right back in 1994, losing to Arkansas in the old Charlotte Coliseum in the closing minute.
  7. Carolina answered back and went to the 1995 Final Four.
  8. The Tar Heels went again in 1997 and ’98, losing in the semifinals both years, and Duke followed that in 1999, losing to UConn in the championship game.
  9. Bill Guthridge’s third and last UNC team went in 2000.
  10. Duke one-upped that in 2001, winning Mike Krzyzewski’s third crown.
  11. Duke was back in 2004, losing in the semis to UConn, and in 2005 Roy Williams’ second UNC team beat Illinois to win his first national championship.
  12. When Williams won his second in 2009, Duke followed with its fourth in 2010.
  13. So, after Duke and Coach K won their fifth in 2015, the Tar Heels are here – the 14th  time the back-to-back thing has happened among local college teams, mostly Duke and Carolina.
mike krzyzewski

Mike Krzyzewski. (Photo by Todd Melet)

Besides great players and teams through the years, what else could be causing this ongoing game of one-upmanship?

“It could be jealousy,” Williams said this week before his team departed for Houston. “I know watching other teams having so much fun at the end of the season gets me all fired up to come back and do it ourselves the next year.”

Back in 1993, UNC senior George Lynch admitted that he spent the previous summer stewing over Duke’s consecutive conquests. And it’s more than just another team, even a conference rival, winning the NCAA title right under your nose. Duke and Carolina share the media, with the newspapers and radio-TV stations covering all of the local programs and following them into the post-season.  When one of the teams loses and is out, the local coverage concentrates  on the team(s) still alive. It causes some players and coaches who have lost to stop paying attention, others to take long weekends away.

The theory was that Smith got his second wind into his 60s due, at least in part, to the consistent success Duke was having. Smith and Carolina took care of that, going to five Final Fours in the 1990s and beating the Blue Devils eight of the last nine head-to-head matches before Smith retired.

And as Duke reloads its roster with another No.1-ranked recruiting class, the Blue Devils will be a favorite to go back-to-back with another local team for a 15th time in 2017.

Maybe one of these days, State will be worthy of one-upping Carolina or Duke.

Ginyard: The Final Four is Different

NANTES, France – And then, there were Four…

First, I would like to congratulate my basketball program on its awesome journey to Houston! I know just how hard the guys have worked and what an opportunity like this means to them. As always, I have been in front of my computer many times, at 3am, wrapped in blanket, muffling my cheers to a whisper as not to cause a disturbance in the building. Those nights turned into a few sick days, but having an extra bounce in my step after some big wins have made it all worth it. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing my passion for Carolina with teammates and friends from all over the world.

2009 Final Four

2009 National Champions. (Photo courtesy of Marcus Ginyard)

I was blessed to experience the Final Four two years in a row, from two distinct points of view, with two very different outcomes. Reaching the 2008 Final Four in San Antonio was somewhat of a dream for us. Quentin Thomas was the only member of the team who had experienced being at a Final Four, and for the rest of us, it was quite an adjustment. We were used to being in the local and national spotlight, but the Final Four is, well, different. And 2009, of course, was an overwhelming landslide in our favor, but much in part because of our experience the year before.

The story starts, however, in 2007. Immediately after our disappointing loss to Georgetown in the Elite 8, in the locker room, we all knew that the pain we were feeling would fuel us to the Final Four the next season. It was in our minds every second from then on, and we trained harder than ever to prepare ourselves for our place in San Antonio. We defended our ACC regular season and tournament championships, while suffering just two defeats. Punching our ticket to the Final Four, in Charlotte, was a moment I will never forget. All the anger, pain, hard work and struggle pushing us to the point of an indescribable triumph. We earned our place among the last four standing.

We were buried with Final Four sweat suits, even more exclusive Jordan’s, the adulation (RW taught me that word) from half the world, and of course tracked down by the aunts and uncles we had never met until then. I remember my dad buying me a new suit, making sure I was looking sharp like Carolina always did. I’ll never forget the never-ending lights; the police escort, the camera flashes stepping off the bus at our hotel, tens of thousands more at open practice, and the blaring lights of TV cameras in the locker room. For most people who haven’t experienced it, they’ll say, “Come on man, it’s normal. They do that all time these days, especially for a team like Carolina.” And they would be right. But trust me, it’s different.

For a split second, our world was turned upside down. We had just reached one of the greatest achievements in college basketball, after waiting over a year to have our place in the Final Four, and we lost sight of the bigger picture, beyond the Final Four, beyond being ONE of the best teams that season. All that was good, but for just a moment we forgot that we wanted more than that. And in that moment, we were caught off guard by an extremely talented Kansas team. By the time we woke up, we were too far behind.

2009 Regional Champions

2009 Regional Champions. Marcus Ginyard (left), Danny Green, Mike Copeland, Bobby Frasor, and Tyler Hansbrough. (Photo courtesy of Marcus Ginyard)

Once again, after the game, there was no doubt what would happen the next year. This time we knew exactly what to expect when we made it to the top of the mountain. What I didn’t expect was to watch the majority of the journey from the sideline. I was expecting to recover from surgery in October of 2008 in just 8-10 weeks, but my foot had different plans. When the time came to decide to redshirt, I knew that I wanted to come back for another year, but it was difficult to leave my classmates, especially because we all knew we would take the championship.

We captured another ACC regular season title, and earned another No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. At this point in the season, I was back to full strength and fulfilled my role as a practice player. I did my very best to create tough, game like situations for the guys to be at their best during the games. Afterward, it was easy to be the biggest supporter of my team!

Marcus Ginyard

After recovering from surgery, Marcus Ginyard found ways to contribute to the Tar Heels’ 2009 National Championship. (Photo courtesy of Marcus Ginyard)

Our performance in the NCAA tournament was a work of art. We were determined to destroy every team in our way. We didn’t take any chance to let off the gas, a lesson we learned the hardest way possible just a year before. As a result, we took the championship with a decisive 121-point accumulated differential over 6 games. Bittersweet? Of course, but believe me, there was a lot more sweetness than bitterness. We achieved the ultimate goal, together, as a team.

I’ll be setting my alarm earlier this Sunday morning, around 1:45 am, so there’s plenty of time to prepare breakfast before tip off. I’ll be in my usual spot, wearing my Carolina gear, but I won’t be keeping quiet!



(Marcus Ginyard now plays professionally in France)