Status of North Carolina forward remains uncertain ahead of Thursday’s game against No. 1 Wisconsin

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LOS ANGELES — During No. 4 North Carolina’s Round of 32 win over No. 5 Arkansas Saturday evening, sophomore power forward Kennedy Meeks went down with what was declared a sprained left knee as a result of a player falling into the side of his leg. Meeks did not return to the game, and as recently as Tuesday head coach Roy Williams didn’t sound optimistic that the 6-foot-9 sophomore would be available Thursday night against No. 1 Wisconsin.

Wednesday afternoon Williams spoke about Meeks’ status for the game, noting that during the team’s actual practice in the morning Meeks participated in some contact drills for the first time since suffering the injury. As for whether or not Meeks would be able to play, Williams remains unsure.

“We don’t know anything about Kennedy,” Williams said in his opening statement to the media. “This morning he did some contact on a limited basis for the first time.”

Meeks did participate in the team’s light workout at Staples Center, wearing a protective brace on his left knee. Following that session began an important period for Meeks in regards to whether or not he’d be able to take the floor against the West region’s top seed.

“The big thing now is we’ll have to wait to see if there’s any more swelling or any pain tonight for what little he did this morning,” Williams added. “And probably it won’t be — well, if there is swelling or pain tonight, we won’t play him. If there’s not, then we’ll probably make the decision during warm-ups tomorrow.”

If Meeks were unable to go it would be the second game he’s missed this season, and the likely replacement would be either Joel James or Isaiah Hicks. Both players played 15 minutes in the Tar Heels’ win over Boston College earlier this month, with James (six points, three rebounds) getting the start and Hicks adding seven points and five rebounds off the bench.

Obviously, there’s no comparison between the Eagles and Wisconsin when assessing what the Tar Heels may do should Meeks be unavailable. Given the matchups with Wisconsin, Hicks provides North Carolina with some mobility in the front court that James doesn’t alongside starter Brice Johnson.