North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina’s Kenny Williams undergoes knee surgery

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina guard Kenny Williams has undergone surgery on his right knee but is expected to be ready for the start of preseason practice in October.

School officials announced Tuesday that Williams had surgery Friday. The university release announcing Williams’ surgery also said he should be able to participate when preseason practice begins.

Williams started 22 games for North Carolina as a sophomore last season but tore his meniscus in a February practice and missed the final 14 games of the Tar Heels’ drive to the national championship.

The 6-foot-4 guard from Midlothian, Virginia, averaged 6.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 23.7 minutes.

Cameron Johnson released by Pitt, eligible to join North Carolina next season

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Cameron Johnson became one of the most coveted transfers on the market when he decided to leave the Pitt program. The 6-foot-8 shooter not only had two years of eligibility remaining but he was graduating in three years, meaning he would be eligible to play at whatever school he chose to enroll in.

Earlier this week, he picked ACC foe North Carolina.

One problem. Kevin Stallings and Pitt placed restrictions on where he could and couldn’t transfer to, mainly within the ACC. The two sides later “compromised.” Johnson could transfer to another ACC school but

Kevin Stallings and Pitt placed restrictions on where he could and couldn’t transfer to, mainly within the ACC. Following an appeal, the two sides reached a “compromise.” Johnson could transfer to another ACC school but he’d have to pay his way and burn one of his final two years of eligibility to do so.

After a PR hit, Pitt has reportedly changed course and has released Johnson, allowing him to suit up for the Tar Heels during the 2017-18 season, according to Evan Daniels of Scout.

Johnson averaged 11.9 points 4.5 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game, shooting 42 percent from three for the Panthers this past season. He will slide into the vacant role left behind by All-American Justin Jackson.

The reigning national champion and Pitt, a program that has lost its top four scorers from a season ago, will be on opposite ends of the preseason poll. But after this ordeal, it’ll make for a must-see matchup when Johnson meets his alma mater.

Joel Berry to return to North Carolina for senior season

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A little more than a day after North Carolina Joel Berry II — along with Tony Bradley and All-American Justin Jackson — announced they would enter the 2017 NBA Draft, Berry reversed course decided to forgo the draft process and will return to Chapel Hill for his senior season.

“After speaking to my family I have decided to withdraw from the 2017 Draft and will return to Carolina next season,” Berry said in a statement released by the university on Tuesday evening. “I know I can continue to improve my game and be better prepared for the NBA after another year playing against the best college competition in the country. There’s no reason to rush leaving school. I love being a Tar Heel and love playing for Carolina and Coach Williams.

Berry, the Most Outstanding Player from this season’s Final Four, averaged 14.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.6 rebounds per game as a junior.

The 6-foot floor general will likely open next season as not only a preseason All-American but perhaps a favorite for national player of the year. Berry will join Theo Pinson as the returning starter for the Tar Heels. North Carolina was pegged as a top-5 team in an early preseason poll by NBC Sports. While Berry’s anticipated return is a big reason why, that ranking also hinges on the decision of Bradley, a 6-foot-10 forward who will be projected as a breakout player if he chooses to return for his sophomore season.

Prospects have until May 24 to withdraw from the NBA Draft.

North Carolina lawmakers take aim at ACC boycott with new bill

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
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The state of North Carolina lost concerts, a conference football championship game, the ACC women’s basketball tournament, an NBA All-Star Game, NCAA tournament games and untold dollars due to HB2, the state’s so-called “bathroom bill.”

It seems many of those are set to return with the bill’s repeal, though that isn’t without controversy, but some state lawmakers are looking to enact a potential boycott of their own.

Members of the North Carolina state House of Representatives introduced a bill this week that would call on the state’s public universities to withdraw from their conferences should those leagues enact any sort of boycott against the state.

That means, were the bill to pass, if the ACC were to formally decree its championships were not to be held in the state of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina and NC State would be, bound by law, required “to immediately provide written notice to the conference that the constituent institution intends to withdraw from the conference no later than when the assignment of its media rights expire, unless the conference immediately ends the boycott.”

Effectively, the Tar Heels and Wolfpack would be forced to announce its departure as soon as the ACC’s TV deal is up.

Obviously, the potential ramifications of such a bill would be great to some large universities. Private schools, such as Duke, would not be subject to such a law.

Given the money, logistics and politics involved, it would seem unlikely that this bill would be able to make it to law, but it underscores how impactful sports have been in the state’s handling of HB2 and all its subsequent issues. It’s also a pretty strong signal that sports – specifically college sports – will be a part of this conversation for as long as it goes on in North Carolina and likely anywhere else in the country.

 

Jordan too superstitious to attend UNC title game

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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There was a theory floating around the North Carolina locker room as to why the Tar Heels’ highest-profile fan, former UNC great Michael Jordan, had been nowhere to be seen during its title run that concluded Monday night with a win over Gonzaga.

“Last time we talked to him, we saw him, was the Duke game at home,” Theo Pinson said. “I think he thinks he’s bad luck.”

Turns out, after watching his beloved Tar Heels fall on a buzzer-beater in the title game in 2016, that’s precisely what His Airness was thinking.

“People asked me for the last day and a half if he was going to come,” UNC coach Roy Williams said on the Dan Patrick Show. “I said guys, knowing him, he’s going to say, ‘I went last year, you lost.’ That’s what I was thinking.”

As Williams made his way out of University of Phoenix Stadium with his third national title secured, he mentioned the theory once more to a North Carolina administrator.

“I’ll give you any odds you want,” Williams recalled saying, “but I’ll bet you a text message from Michael or a voicemail from Michael, and he’s going to say something about coming last year.

“Sure enough, I got on the bus … had a quite a few messages, and one of them was from Michael.

“So I collected some money last night.”

Even the greatest player of all time doesn’t want to tempt fate with a title on the line. Not to mention, no one can prove Jordan wasn’t right to stay away. North Carolina has another banner. Maybe he was on to something. It’s probably best not to question MJ on matters of basketball, anyway.

Watch: North Carolina fans rush Dean Dome floor

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The celebration wasn’t limited to Glendale. Or even Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

No, the Dean Dome also helped house a party on the night North Carolina won the sixth national championship in program history with a triumph Monday over Gonzaga.

Given the Tar Heels are almost always favorites in this building, it’s not often subjected to a good old fashioned floor rushing.

A national championship, though, is a fitting moment to hit hardwood and appreciate the pinnacle of the sport.