North Carolina freshman forward Tyler Zeller is likely gone for the season after undergoing surgery Wednesday to repair a fractured left wrist suffered when he fell attempting a dunk during Tuesday's win over Kentucky.
The injury is a significant hit for the top-ranked Tar Heels as they await the return of the 2007-08 consensus national player of the year winner Tyler Hansbrough, who hasn't played in the first two games due to a stress reaction in his right shin, and fellow senior forward Marcus Ginyard, out with a stress fracture in his left foot.
North Carolina officially released information about Zeller's injury late Wednesday, saying the freshman forward had surgery at UNC Hospitals to repair his broken left radius and ulna. The official release said UNC's Dr. Don Bynum, who performed the surgery, deemed it a success and said he expects Zeller to make a full recover. Normal recovery time for this procedure is 12 to 16 weeks.
Zeller started the first two games in Hansbrough's absence, scoring 18 points in the season-opening win over Penn and then two in the win over Kentucky. The 7-foot Zeller suffered the injury with 1:26 left in the game when he was fouled by Kentucky's Ramon Harris on a breakaway dunk.
Coach Roy Williams called it "another big blow for our team."
"I hate this for Tyler," Williams said in a statement. "He's such a great kid and he's going to be a terrific player for us."
The Tar Heels left Wednesday night for Santa Barbara, Calif., in advance of Friday night's game against UC Santa Barbara. The team plays three games in the Maui Invitational beginning Monday against host Chaminade. The Tar Heels return home to play UNC Asheville before playing Michigan State at Ford Field in Detroit in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Hansbrough told ESPN.com Tuesday night that he would practice Wednesday and hoped he could play Friday night. But Williams cautioned that the Tar Heels would be very conservative in bringing Hansbrough back to ensure he's 100 percent.
Ginyard said Tuesday night that he would take his time recovering, too, and hoped to be back in early December.
In Hansbrough's absence, junior forward Deon Thompson scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds against Kentucky. Freshman forward Ed Davis recorded his second straight double-figure rebound game, giving him 24 boards in two games.
With Hansbrough uncertain and Zeller and Ginyard out, Thompson and Davis could start against UCSB on Friday and against Alabama, Notre Dame or Texas next week in Maui -- without any true frontcourt backup.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.