CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Senior forward Joel James will not play in No. 2 North Carolina’s game against Wake Forest on Wednesday due to injury, according to Roy Williams.
“He’s not going to play against Wake Forest,” Williams said during his weekly radio show at Top of the Hill restaurant. “He’s got an Achilles problem that’s been sore, and we’re just going to hold him out and see if it will improve through the rest of the week.”
James played five minutes in the first half of UNC’s 67-55 win over N.C. State on Saturday, but sat out the entire second half.
Williams told reporters following the game that James had been limited in practice due to his Achilles bothering him.
James has started eight games this season and is averaging 2.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
The win against N.C. State was different from some of your other wins this season, considering your team didn’t shoot the ball very well. Your thoughts on the game?
“Well, you’re right. It was different. We didn’t shoot the ball very well. One of the worst percentages we’ve had, maybe the whole season. Allowed them to dominate the tempo of the game, because they wanted to slow it down a little bit. Make the clock run a little bit more each possession. Didn’t rebound the ball at all in the first half, did much better in the second half. In some ways, it was an ugly W, but you’ve got to have those, and then it’s also to understand that you can win when it’s not easy, when it’s not pretty. You’ve got to be able to grind it out sometimes, and I think that’s what we did.”
What did you think of Kennedy Meeks playing so well in his return to the starting lineup?
“First half, I was mad at him and I told him so. In the second half, he was really, really good. Dove on the floor three times, and he actually did dive, nobody tripped him or anything. He dove on the floor three times, he blocked those shots, was involved in the screen-and-roll, played that better. He was really active around the basket. We got the ball to him and he put it in the hole, but that was his best half of basketball all year.”
How often do you offer high school sophomores, and when did you start realizing that’s something you needed to do?
“I don’t like to do it, but I think it’s more necessary right now with the situation that we’re in. I was trying to think, this is 13 years I’ve been back here, it may have been Kendall (Marshall) and Reggie (Bullock) were the first two sophomores that I’ve offered since I came back. I did offer Harry Giles, who’s going to Duke. I offered him his freshman year, because I thought Harry was just sensational. I’m sure I’m just drawing a blank. Early, early in their junior year was Joel Berry, Theo (Pinson) and Justin Jackson, and all three committed to us as juniors and signed as seniors. I can’t tell you the first one, but unless it was Kendall and Reggie, I don’t think I ever offered a freshman or sophomore when I was at Kansas.
“There’s so many things going on, everybody’s calendar, they try to speed it up, and nobody’s willing to go through the process and be a great high school player and enjoy high school basketball, and nobody’s willing to have a great college career and enjoy college basketball. Everybody wants to go faster in their lives until they get to be old, and then they try to slow the dadgum thing down like we do. I think Kendall and Reggie were the first ones, and nowadays so many kids are committing as juniors that you need to stay up on the game.
“Most of the time, I used to say I don’t know anybody that was a freshman, and my assistant should know who they are. When they got to be sophomores or juniors, I really went to look at them. But nowadays, I worry a little bit more about some freshmen. After the game Saturday, I flew down to Punta Gorda, Florida and saw Tony Bradley play against Brandon Robinson, two kids who are coming next year, and flew back here, let one assistant out, got another assistant in the plane, we flew to Springfield, Massachusetts to the Basketball Hall of Fame high school tournament, which has been on TV for three days, and I watched one senior, and everybody else I watched were either sophomores or juniors up there.
“It’s just, the change in the times is something, but I’m not as comfortable. I told Kendall and Reggie, both, when I offered them, I said I was scared to death for three years. I didn’t know if you were going end up being the player I thought you were or not. Needless to say, they did.”
Is the negative recruiting surrounding the program subsiding at all, or will it take absolute resolution from the outside stuff to get that finished?
“Oh, it’ll take absolute resolution, and that’s all I’m saying about it.”
Do you feel like you’ve been turning the corner recruiting-wise over the last couple of months?
“I don’t know, I’ve worked the hardest - I felt like I’ve always worked extremely hard, but in the last two and a half years I’ve worked the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. Our staff has. We’ve recruited more people, done more things, been more places, spent more money, we’ve done everything in the world you can do. It’s just hard out there right now. Hopefully, with the stuff going on, we can get it resolved, and it’ll be a little bit easier.”
Do you alter your practice schedule to avoid injuries at this stage in the season?
“We scale things back this time of year anyways, because we’re trying to protect their bodies. We give them time off. I’m never going to be a coach that goes out there and says ‘let’s go easy today’ at practice. If I’m going to do something, let’s do it the best we can possibly do. So we shorten the time, we give them time off. Last week, I guess, was when we had the whole week. We gave them Sunday off, practiced on Monday, Tuesday just brought them in to run and shoot, and then Wednesday gave them the day off and came back and practiced Thursday and Friday. We gave them Sunday off after the North Carolina State game. We went and practiced today, we had a full practice scheduled, and the guys didn’t like that part of it. They decided they wanted to practice for the track team, so that’s what we did at practice today. It does depend on what kind of mood they’re in, that kind of thing, but we do cut practice back quite a bit at this time of year and keep going like that.”