North Carolina senior guard Brandon Robinson sprained his right ankle with 12:19 remaining in the first half of the Tar Heels’ lone public exhibition Friday night against Winston-Salem State. The injury occurred after Robinson blocked a shot and a Winston-Salem player rolled up on his ankle upon landing back on the court.
According to a press release from the University of North Carolina, “X-rays taken on Saturday were negative for a fracture. There is no timetable for [Robinson’s] return.”
Robinson started the exhibition game and had already scored eight points by the time the injury occurred. The Douglasville, GA native, along with junior Garrison Brooks, brings the greatest level of returning experience and maturity to the 2019-20 Tar Heels.
The first regular season game is on Wednesday, November 6 against Notre Dame in the Smith Center.
What does the injury mean for the beginning of the regular season?
In the exhibition game, the other starters were Cole Anthony, Christian Keeling, Garrison Brooks, and Armando Bacot. Graduate transfer Justin Pierce started in Robinson’s place in the second half.
Pierce and sophomore Leaky Black (this year’s “Danny-Green-Theo-Pinson-jack-of-all-trades-Swiss-army-knife” player) are the two most likely candidates to start at the ‘3’.
Two factors point to Pierce receiving the starting nod on Wednesday against Notre Dame:
First, Coach Williams has mentioned that the coaches are slowly working Black back into playing form after his severe ankle injury last season against Georgia Tech.
Second, with Seventh Woods transferring to South Carolina and freshman guards Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis still recovering from high school injuries, Black is the primary point guard back-up to Cole Anthony. Therefore, the coaching staff will want to preserve as much of his energy as possible.
My prediction is that Pierce starts, but that Black will receive ‘starter’s minutes’.
Join the Club
The Tar Heels are already without the aforementioned Harris and Francis, as well as junior big man Sterling Manley and junior guard KJ Smith.
Robinson will likely join them in street clothes for an unknown period of time.
It’s a good thing Carolina has depth because it will be tested.
What about that depth? As already discussed, Robinson’s absence means more minutes for both Pierce and Black. The other player who should see an increase in minutes is junior Andrew Platek. Christian Keeling already figured to play a large share of Carolina’s 200 available minutes in a game, but he will likely see an uptick for the time being as well.
Early season injuries to experienced players can often be a blessing in disguise as they allow less-experienced players to gain valuable minutes. However, in a season with new faces everywhere, the on-court consistency that a veteran like Robinson provides is invaluable. Hopefully he can provide the same leadership from the bench for however like he is sidelined.
It’s no secret that Roy Williams teams take the early months of seasons to build chemistry and figure out roles and fit; sometimes to the detriment of the win column. Depending on the length of Robinson’s absence, it could be difficult to work him back into a team that has already found its way.
Hopefully the ankle heals quickly and we get to see a long and fruitful senior season from Brandon Robinson.