UNC's Woods on slow comeback trail

Florida St North Carolina Basketball-3

North Carolina's Seventh Woods (21) drives to the basket while Florida State's Jonathan Isaac (1) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)


Sports Writer

Monday, January 15, 2018

Seventh Woods, the heavily recruited sophomore whose high profile dates back to his high school career in Columbia, S.C., hasn’t played in a game for North Carolina since late-November, and only has seven brief appearances this season, totalling 76 minutes.

It’s been an injury-plagued start to his career at UNC, though he was able to play in all 40 games as a backup during last season’s national title run.

His most recent ailment is a stress fracture in his right foot, originally diagnosed as an injury with a four-week timeframe to return. It’s been the cause of 11 straight DNPs, plus a lot of frustration for Woods, said Roy Williams on Monday, who noted there is still no set date for a return.

“I think he’s been frustrated because he hasn’t been healthy in two years. A lot of things have been tough for him,” said the coach.

Woods had a great summer, said Williams, at times showing his marquee athleticism that made him a highly-sought after player in the class of 2016.

“He had his moments,” Williams said. “Anytime a very good player that’s had a lot of success, then all of a sudden your body is not cooperating, that does get frustrating. That’s where Seventh is but he also knows he’s just got to keep working at it.

“He’s had a great attitude about it. He’s been in the weight room trying to get his body back where he wants it to be.”

While Williams said the hope is for Woods to return this season, the possibility is still up in air, which leaves the option of a medical redshirt still open, the sophomore having played in less than 30 percent of the team’s full schedule.

But even with No. 15 UNC plodding through its ACC schedule, it’s been a patient approach for the coaching staff, though Woods is out of a walking boot, according to Williams.

“No one here in North Carolina has seen the real Seventh Woods yet,” said the coach. “Roy Williams has seen him and I hope that everybody else gets a chance to see him, too.”

UNC looks to rebound

Williams made it clear on Monday that his Tar Heels were lucky to escape South Bend with a win on Saturday night, a game that featured a wild ending where Notre Dame, down one point with 7.1 seconds left, missed two shots at the rim that would have defeated the Tar Heels at the buzzer.

The Fighting Irish, playing without their two leading scorers, including Bonzie Colson, also the ACC’s second leading rebounder, managed to out rebound UNC, 45-37, a stat Williams was weary of in the two days after the narrow win.

“One thing that (Mike Brey’s) done with the club, he’s gotten them to believe that if they defend better and they rebound better, they’ll have a better chance to win games,” Williams said. “They’ve bought into it. It was a phenomenal performance for them on the backboards on Saturday.”

The Tar Heels play No. 20 Clemson (15-2, 4-1) on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Wolfpack in the dog days

The number of ranked opponents N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts faced last year, as UNC-Wilmington’s head basketball coach: zero.

The number of ranked opponents Keatts will face with the Wolfpack between Dec. 30 and this Sunday: five. Plus No. 15 UNC to close out January.

N.C. State is indeed in the dog days of its ACC schedule, where wins over then-No. 2 Duke on Saturday and then-No. 19 Clemson on Thursday were rewarded with a matchup Sunday in Charlottesville against now-No. 2 Virginia, which was a 68-51 loss.

Such is life in the ACC, far from UNCW’s conference, the CAA, but as Keatts pointed out on Monday, the recent gauntlet is nothing he didn’t foresee when he took the job. If anything, it’s been fun.

“It’s what I signed up for, it’s the ACC. It’s exciting. I’m just coming out of a staff meeting and we talked about that — our five games that we open the (conference) season with, we’re up against it so far, they’ve been brutal,” he said.

“When you talk about it, you’ve got to go to Clemson, who has obviously played unbelievable in non-conference, you go to Notre Dame, who was also ranked at the time, then you turn around, and you’re home games are against No. 2 Duke and No. 19 Clemson and you turn around and go to No. 3 Virginia, that’s as tough as it gets.”

For the Wolfpack (12-6, 2-3), who have beaten three ranked teams — two during ACC play — the schedule gets easier, theoretically, at least, with a home game against Wake Forest (8-9, 1-4) this Thursday. They host No. 18 Miami this Sunday in Raleigh, as well.

Coach K back on Monday

After a virus made Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski a late scratch for the Blue Devils game against Wake Forest on Saturday, he was back on the sidelines against Miami on Monday.