When John Henson went down in the Maryland game with a wrist injury, as a fan, my stomach sank. This was the worst possible timing for the Heels' power forward to go down with an injury. The ACC title was put in jeopardy, as were any hopes of a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
With the news that the injury was not as severe as it looked, I began to look at it not as a tragedy, but as an opportunity for Carolina. And the way things played out in the ACC Tournament, despite the finals loss to Florida State, gave me some real hope for the Big Dance.
First, it forced James Michael McAdoo to start growing up as a player. His talent was too often seen only in flashes, and with Zeller and Henson eating up the minutes, he was allowed to behave as if he were “only” a role player. The Henson injury forced McAdoo into a larger role as both a defender and as a scoring option, and he responded pretty well. An expanded role for him will greatly help the Heels as they chase a Final Four berth.
Further, the injury forced the team to realize that their perimeter defense has to improve. Henson was as good a shot-blocker as there is in college basketball, save Anthony Davis at Kentucky, and his presence erased a lot of perimeter breakdowns. Without him in the lineup, the Heels are forced to concentrate more on keeping their defensive assignment in front of them, as they don’t have Henson behind them to clean up their mistakes.
Finally, the injury forced Roy Williams to rediscover his bench. Justin Watts had become Carolina’s forgotten man, but when they turned to him, he was ready. Watts is a truly versatile player who gave the Heels big minutes in the ACC Tournament at both the point guard and power forward positions. If the Heels keep him in the rotation as the NCAA Tournament begins, he could be an “X-factor” that can be very beneficial to the Heels
You never want to see a player go down, but in this instance, the injury to John Henson’s wrist didn’t spell doom for the Tar Heels. Instead, it created opportunities for growth that may not have been there previously.
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