ATLANTA—Let’s be clear: North Carolina will be a lesser basketball team if John Henson’s left wrist injury is serious.
But also know this: Henson’s primary replacement, freshman James Michael McAdoo, is a top-shelf talent capable of filling some of the Henson void.
ACC defensive player of the year, the 6-foot-11 Henson fell on his left wrist in the first half of Carolina’s 85-69 ACC tournament quarterfinal victory over Maryland. The thud was audible on press row, and Henson winced immediately.
After a trip to the locker room, he returned for one possession before telling coach Roy Williams the pain was too much for him to grip the ball. His day was done.
Henson’s seven-minute cameo created playing time for McAdoo, a 6-9 Norfolk Christian graduate who played summer ball for Boo Williams’ Hampton-based program. McAdoo logged a season-high 29 minutes and matched his season-high with 14 points. He also collared eight rebounds, one shy of his Tar Heels best.
Friday marked McAdoo’s first double-figure game against an ACC opponent and his most rebounds versus a league foe. His previous highs in points and rebounds came against Nicholls and Monmouth, respectively.
No offense to them, but stats posted in wins by 50 and 37 points carry little weight. The ACC tournament? Ton of weight.
“Coach puts me out there, I know he trusts me,” McAdoo told a media crush in the locker room. “I know my teammates trust me.”
Like most his size, McAdoo was a scorer in high school, averaging 22.5 and 21.6 points his final two seasons. He starred on the United States’ gold medal-winning teams at the U16 and U17 world championships in 2009 and ’10, and he was co-MVP at the 2011 McDonald’s All-American game.
In short, he has just the pedigree you’d expect from a North Carolina recruit.
“As a freshman I don’t know if I could have done that,” Henson said of McAdoo’s performance Friday. “There’s going to be a game where he takes off. Tonight he showed you a little bit. …
“He knows what to do. He knows what spots he’s comfortable in. … He can stretch a team out as well shooting that 15-, 18-footer.”
Indeed, much like Virginia’s Mike Scott, McAdoo is a capable scorer in the low post and on the perimeter. Where he absolutely can not hope to replace Henson is on the defensive end, where Henson leads the ACC in blocked shots and rebounds.
“It will affect us tremendously,” McAdoo said of a potential Henson absence.
Henson described his situation as “wait-and-see.” X-rays showed no fracture, but there was swelling and pain. If there's any residual soreness for Saturday's semifinal againstN.C. State, bet on Williams sitting Henson until the NCAA tournament.
A natural right-hander, Henson is equally adept with his left and often uses his off hand to shoot jump hooks.
“He had trouble catching and gripping the basketball,” Williams said.
Henson averages 13.8 points and 10.1 rebounds. He’s blocked 94 shots.
“John is extremely long and he has some things you can’t teach,” point guard Kendall Marshall said. “McAdoo brings a different thing to us. He’s able to face up and slash to the basket, and I think he showed that on several occasions.”
Friday was the second time in a week that McAdoo played a season-high minutes. He logged 21 in Saturday’s regular-season finale at Duke, where again he was very active with six points and four rebounds.
McAdoo said former Tar Heel Jackie Manuel often says to him: “You hear that clicking noise in the background?”
And why have things started to click?
“Just really working hard in practice,” McAdoo said. “Coach has really been harping on that. It kind of showed today.”
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