Knee surgery will sideline UNCs Williams for rest of season

Williams, a 6-foot-3 sophomore who has started 22 games, suffered the injury at practice on Tuesday

Rob Kinnan—USA Today Sports
Kenny Williams started 22 games for the Tar Heels in 2016-17 before suffering a season-ending knee injury in mid-February

RALEIGH — The excitement of another lopsided beating of rival NC State on Wednesday was tempered for the North Carolina basketball team by news that guard Kenny Williams will likely miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.Williams, a 6-foot-3 sophomore who has started 22 games, suffered the injury at practice on Tuesday.Coach Roy Williams announced after the Tar Heels’ 97-73 shellacking of the Wolfpack at PNC Arena that his player would undergo surgery early next week and would not return to action this season “unless we play until June.”That’s unlikely, since the college basketball national championship game is set to be played on April 3.”He hurt his knee,” Williams the coach said of Williams the player. “It’s a crazy thing. It’s not an ACL or anything like that. It’s 4-to-6 weeks, but when you look at 4-to-6 weeks at this point in the year, it’s basically the end of the season.”Kenny Williams is averaging just 6.2 points and 2.2 assists per game this season, but he’s a 34-percent shooter from beyond the arc whose 27 3-pointers ranks third on the team behind only starters Justin Jackson and Joel Berry.Where he’ll be missed most, however, is on the defensive end of the floor.”I’ve said all year long that Kenny’s our best perimeter defender,” Roy Williams said. “He really is.”The good news for the Tar Heels is that Theo Pinson is back in action and ready to step into the void Williams’ injury has created.Pinson was penciled in as the team’s starting shooting guard at the start of the season. But he missed the first 16 games with a broken bone in his foot. He was forced to sit out three more games after rolling his ankle in a recent win against Virginia Tech.Finally healthy again, the 6-6 junior made his first start of the year on Wednesday. He responded by scoring 12 points — mostly on aggressive drives to the basket — with four assists, two rebounds and a steal in 24 effective minutes.”I just wanted to come out there and not try to force anything, because those guys have played together basically all year,” Pinson said of his teammates. “My game is to try and do a little bit of everything and just let the game come to me.”It definitely has been a long road (back), but I don’t want to be a starter the way I had to start. We’d love to have had Kenny out there. That’s the real thing. I’m more worried about how he’s doing and where he is right now.”