North Carolina coach Roy Williams said center Joel James would return to the lineup for Wednesday’s game against Miami. James has essentially missed the past five games after suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament in the opening minute of the Tar Heels’ loss to Texas on Dec. 18.
James participated in pregame warmups on Sunday in their loss at Wake Forest, but Williams said the plan was only to use him in an emergency. Williams said James participated fully in the Heels’ Monday practice.
“We wanted him to get one more day of just shooting layups and letting his knee rest,” Williams said.
“I think that he’ll be ready to go for Miami.”
Williams did not indicate whether James would return to the starting lineup. In the four games without him starting, neither Brice Johnson nor Kennedy Meeks had standout performances. Johnson termed his two starts as two of the worst games he has played this season. When he returned to his role coming off the bench he was again effective combining for 26 points and 16 rebounds.
Meeks had his first scoreless game of the season in his first start against UNC Wilmington. He scored seven points and had nine rebounds against Wake Forest, but missed many attempts around the rim in shooting 3 of 8.
Meeks wasn’t the only one. Despite the Heels' 24 offensive rebounds against Wake, they only had 24 second-chance points. Williams wasn’t pleased with the Heels’ 38.7 percent shooting performance either, which was the second lowest of the season.
It led to a grueling practice Monday with his frontcourt. Williams said he drilled them on staying low while posting up and going strong to the rim.
“We worked on that about 45 minutes and finishing plays, it was the most physical practice we have had for an hour all year long,” Williams said on his radio show Monday. “They were beating each other up and it didn’t bother me in the least bit. We’ve got to be more forceful around the basket and finish plays and hopefully it helped us today and we’re going to try to do the same thing [Tuesday].”