After scoring 13 points in his season debut against UC Santa Barbara on Friday, North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough said he hopes to play in all three games of the Maui Invitational, which begins Monday. But after the game, coach Roy Williams wasn't so sure.
"I don't know what we're going to do in Maui,'' he said after top-ranked UNC's 84-67 victory, indicating concern about playing him in all three games.
The uncertainty isn't surprising. There's been plenty of it over the last three weeks, as Hansbrough, the team's leading scorer, has sat out with a stress reaction in his right shin. Williams said he didn't even know until pre-game warm-ups — at about the 15-minute mark — whether the big man would play.
"We wanted to see how he felt practicing with the team,'' he said. "He felt great about it. It was tough every time I took him out, he was ready to go back in."
And therein is the rub. Hansbrough said he thinks he's "all the way healed." But his coaches and family have approached the injury cautiously, because they'd rather have him return slowly now than start feeling pain again later. The senior, as shown during his performance against UCSB, isn't one to do things in half-measures. He plays aggressively in the post, goes for every rebound; he even went head-first into the padded part of the goal post on one play.
So his coaches, trainers and doctors will want to see how he responds before deciding how much he'll play in the three-games-in-three-days tournament.
"[He's] nowhere where he wants to be,'' Williams said. "It's going to take him a little while. He's human."
— Correspondent Barry Punzal contributed to this report