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UNC Basketball: Kenny Williams is cleared to resume basketball activities

Roy Williams got one of his best defenders back just in time for the first week of practice

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

This past Monday, UNC found out that they would get one of their upperclassmen back into the fold. Junior guard Kenny Williams was cleared to resume basketball activities, and so begins the process of getting his body into shape for the start of the season in November.

Back in February, Williams went down with a torn meniscus in his right knee, causing him to miss the last 14 games of the season. Since the initial surgery earlier in the year, he had a second surgery back in July and was expected to be ready for practice this month. It is a good sign that the target date came to fruition, because now Roy Williams will have all of his pieces available for when he begins to figure out what each of his players can do and which fit into each lineup.

One of the most important things that UNC gets back with the return of Kenny Williams is his perimeter defense. Williams was named North Carolina’s defensive player of the game five times last season: against Indiana, Florida State, Syracuse, Boston College and Virginia Tech.

The ironic part is that Williams and Theo Pinson never could seem to stay healthy at the same time for most of the season, as Pinson was also one of UNC’s best defenders last year. Now that Williams is back in the mix, we shouldn’t see much of a drop-off in defense should Roy Williams use the two interchangeably.

Another thing that UNC gets back with Kenny Williams returning is his shooting. There may be skeptics out there that wonder exactly which Kenny Williams the Heels will get back offensively, which is fair, but the reality is that his three-point shooting ability was enough to help stretch the court alongside Joel Berry and Justin Jackson.

Last year, Kenny Williams finished the season shooting 33% from three—a drastic increase from the 7% efficiency he shot at his freshman year. With his increased role in 2016-17, Williams was finally able to gain confidence in his shooting ability. Should he maintain or increase his efficiency, he will be in good company with Joel Berry, Cameron Johnson, Luke Maye, and hopefully incoming freshmen Andrew Platek and Jalek Felton in being able to stretch the court. It will absolutely be needed this year, as there are a lot of questions surrounding the freshmen big men.

Kenny Williams’ return to the court is great news for Roy Williams and his program. He will compete with Theo Pinson and Cameron Johnson for a starting role at the shooting guard position, so we will see who will be able to win the job before the first game against Northern Iowa on November 10th.

Also as a reminder: Late Night with Roy Williams is just a little over a week away. It’s time to get excited, college basketball is almost here!