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Zeller Update

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Cleared and practicing apparently.

Here is what Roy had to say about Tyler Zeller during the UVa postgame press conference:

"He started practicing Thursday and Friday. He was on the court half of the time and practiced half of that. He and Marcus both, I had them with Jonas. Half of the practice they were doing rehab, and then they came out and practiced....So if you're good in math, they practiced a fourth of the time... Somebody asked me about whether I thought Tyler Zeller would play today. I mean, my gosh, guys, he only missed 12 weeks. He doesn't even know what offense and defense is. He thinks ‘defense’ is something that goes around your yard. So it's going to be a while, then we're going to make decisions later on. Don't ask me this week, there will not be a decision. We'll look at it down the road a little bit. There's a reason they give you four and a half weeks of preseason practice, so you can get ready to play."

It is good news Zeller is back in practice though it sounds like he is still doing rehab work on the wrist.  The decision to bring him back to play most likely rests on how quickly he gets back to the point he can play. There is still the issue of his wrist being a full strength which probably willl not happen this season.  Since it is his off hand that might not matter.  The two larger concerns are how fast can Zeller get up to speed on the offense/defense and him being in basketball shape.  The former only comes from practicing and no I don't think Zeller watching for 12 weeks means he understands the offense and defense as it pertains to how he might fit into the schemes which is why it may take some time in that regard.  As for the latter issue, I have no doubt Zeller has maintained his basic conditioning but basketball conditioning is a whole other animal.  The problem with basketball is it demands short bursts of sprinting and making moves that can be demanding.  Plus the physical nature of the game also wears on you.  Based on my own experiences I am less fatigued after my weekly game if I draw defensive assignments with less physical players than I do when guarding someone who fights hard, especially on the interior.  Zeller would need to get back into the groove in both these aspects before Roy will even think about playing him assuming he wants to burn the presumed redshirt.

All that being said, I think we see Zeller return to the rotation on February 28th at home versus Georgia Tech. How is that for a prediction?  The reason being is it would give them three regular season games to work him back into the rotation.  The only really scary games on the schedule are at Duke and Miami, both in the next eight days and Zeller won't be ready for those.  The next two are NCSU and Maryland followed by a week break before Georgia Tech.  The week long break is the key since it will permit straight practice time with a game interrupting the schedule for Zeller to come the rest of the way back.  It is also three weeks from now which would be 15+ weeks since the injury and should be enough time for Zeller to be 100% where the wrist is concerned.

The wild card in all of this is whether Roy wants to burn the redshirt for what could be as few as seven games assuming the Heels postseason is a disaster with losses in the ACC Semifinals and in the Sweet Sixteen.  Even with the full compliment of games possible, you are talking about 12 games if Zeller returns in late February.  I think the ultimate decision will be made by Zeller and as a I stated previously I think Zeller will want to come back seeing his teammates need him.

Thus begins the wait and see mode, because Roy says he is not talking about it for at least a week.