Could the season get any worse for the struggling, confidence-sapped North Carolina Tar Heels?
Of course it can, and it did.
On Friday, Feb. 12, coach Roy Williams announced that Ed Davis would be out at least six weeks recovering from a broken lunate bone in his left wrist, an injury he sustained after falling to floor in a mid-lane collision during UNC’s game against Duke.
Davis is North Carolina’s leading rebounder, shot blocker, and second-highest scorer.
His probable season-ending injury is the latest blow to a growing injury-depleted roster—Travis Wear is out indefinitely with a severely sprained ankle, and Tyler Zeller has been missing in action since Jan. 13th’s game versus Clemson and will not return for at least another week. It is also quite possible that previous ailments could flare up in players such as Marcus Ginyard.
Injuries not only reduce the number of available players, but they disrupt playing patterns and interrupt any rhythm formed among the players, virtually making it impossible to establish teamwork.
For the sake of the players’ individual health and athletic prospects and for any chance to salvage the remaining season as viable competitors, I certainly wish them a speedy recovery.
At the same time, a silver lining has appeared in the latest setback against the Tar Heels, believe it or not.
College basketball prognosticators expected Davis to declare for the NBA after season’s end. Most of them predicted the sophomore forward would be a Top 10 first-round pick. However, his stock has waned since conference play, along with his declining numbers.
With the new wrist injury, Davis obviously cannot play and prove his worth to NBA scouts. Without Davis, the Heels will have an even harder time winning the rest of their games—UNC must win the remaining conference games to finish above .500. Thus, Davis will neither attract the positive attention down the stretch nor will his team’s current mediocrity boost his stature.
A team could possibly select Davis in the first round, though as a lower pick, if he enters the NBA draft. However, with exposure and preparation limited by injury, a decision to return for his junior year could serve as a wiser, more beneficial decision.
Moreover, not only will a return in North Carolina uniform provide Davis with an opportunity for improvement and bolster his position in the next NBA draft, but his presence would unquestionably strengthen the Tar Heels as a team without the additional challenge of replacing Davis and tweaking the lineup.
Davis remains a highly regarded prospect, with his outstanding wingspan, deft touch, and excellent mobility and coordination. If he can bulk up during the offseason by adding more muscle, he can boost strength—a component of his game still underdeveloped and underutilized. Add an improved mid-range jumper to his arsenal, and a more powerful Davis would undeniably draw the fear from opponents and the awe of NBA scouts as the potential No. 1 pick.
For Carolina basketball, another year from a stronger, refined Davis could translate into an easier, more successful season, as the team would have at least a year of experience behind them. The Tar Heels could build a more connected team with players who would recognize each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and playing tendencies—a more comfortable group who would have learned from past mistakes.
Of course, this hypothetical scenario could fail to materialize.
Still, for a desperate team and fanbase eager to return to winning ways, the picture of a brighter future that has emerged from yet another misfortune does offer some dose of consolation, if not irony.