Injuries Accruing at PG

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 15 North Carolina entered the season with five point guards on the roster. Three games into the ACC slate, however, four members of that quintet are battling injuries, including ACC Preseason Player of the Year Marcus Paige.

Paige is suffering with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. The condition involves inflammation of tissue around the heel that stretches along the bottom of the foot. The junior point guard has been dealing with the injury since the end of the year, and added a sprained right ankle to the mix in the second half of Saturday’s win over Louisville.

Paige has tried both a walking boot and a night splint to help, but discarded both in a matter of days due to discomfort.

Paige’s health is a critical detail as the Tar Heels prepare for a trip to PNC Arena to play N.C. State on Wednesday night. Paige scored a career-high 35 points, including the game-winner, in an 85-84 overtime victory over the Wolfpack in Raleigh last year.

“It’s feeling better,” Paige told reporters on Tuesday. “I think yesterday and today are the best its felt in the last 2 ½ weeks or however long its been bothering me. It’s on the upswing. Games usually tend to make it hurt a lot more the next day, so we’ll see how it holds up after tomorrow. But going into tomorrow, it feels pretty good.”

Paige is not the only point guard saddled with foot problems.

“We’ve got a whole team full of guys with bad feet,” Williams said. “Luke [Davis’s] out and now we’ve got Stilman [White] in a boot for the next 4-6 weeks until they make a decision of what to do with him, too. Point guards in practice are at a premium right now.”

Davis, a senior, suffered a stress fracture in his right foot on Oct. 24. He returned to action last week but re-aggravated the injury. White, a redshirt sophomore, is dealing with a stress reaction in his right foot, while freshman Joel Berry has a slight groin pull.

“The other day Nate [Britt] was the only point guard we had and he couldn’t play on both teams,” Williams said.

Depth has played an important role for UNC this season – 10 Tar Heels have played in all 16 games and are averaging 9.2 minutes or more per game – and will be counted on at the point guard position as players heal up.

“It’s huge for us right now because we’ve got so many guys hurt and banged up,” Paige said. “Having guys that you can go to – I think Nate’s the only 100 percent point guard right now, so hopefully [knocks on wood] he’ll be alright. But it’s good to have that because we saw a couple of years ago in the NCAA Tournament what can happen if you don’t have some of your guys at full strength.”

Paige is referencing UNC’s 2012 run to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight with White running the show as a true freshman following injuries to Kendall Marshall (wrist) and Dexter Strickland (knee).

Williams praised Ohio State’s ability to win the college football championship on Monday night with its third-string quarterback under center.

“We tried to go to the Final Four with our third-string point guard, but he wasn’t a high school All-American or 6-5, 250 [pounds], either,” Williams said, referring to Buckeye quarterback Cardale Jones.

Williams was adamant following that 2012 season that he would have plenty of options at point guard for the rest of his coaching career, which is the primary reason that this UNC roster has five.

“I hope, hope, hope that Roy Williams will never be caught without three very highly-recruited, gifted point guards,” Williams said. “Now, one time at Kansas I had four guys get hurt in the preseason and in the first month of the season. They were all four power forwards, so you never know what’s going to happen.”

Knock on wood.

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