Kenny Williams can’t seem to catch a break. Having missed the final stretch of the 2016-17 season after tearing his right meniscus in February, Williams had been scheduled to return to activity in June or July. Now, he will instead undergo surgery on the same knee again, less than five months after the initial surgery.
A month after the injury, Williams was off crutches but his return to the team was all but ruled out. At this point in the rehab he was just able to bend his knee again. He had finally been able to practice with the team earlier this month before this recent setback.
For what it’s worth, UNC has not indicated that this new surgery was on the same tissue as the last one. Williams is expected to be ready for the preseason in October, so it’s unlikely that the surgically repaired tissue was damaged. If it was, there’s no way he would be expected to return so soon. A three-month recovery time could certainly be consistent with a partial meniscus tear, but we will have to wait for more information. For all we know this is just simple cleanup after the initial surgery.
Williams was a starter for the first half of his sophomore season, and while his starting spot for the coming year was not guaranteed, he certainly had a decent shot at retaining it. Roy Williams, like any good coach, values defense, and Kenny Williams won his coach’s Defensive Player of the Game honor five times in 26 games. Many of the team’s most frequent winners of that honor have left, including Nate Britt (11 games), Kennedy Meeks (6 games), and Tony Bradley (5 games), and many saw Williams as the team’s best remaining perimeter defender.
After this injury, however, Williams may lose ground to what figures to be a crowded backcourt. He, Cameron Johnson, Theo Pinson, Brandon Robinson, and even point guards Seventh Woods and Jalek Felton are all in competition for two starting perimeter spots. Williams, with almost no offseason, will have his work cut out for him if he wants to retain his starting role.
The mitigating factor to this news is that Williams should return from surgery as largely the same player he was before it. This second surgery has the potential to sap some of his athleticism, but he should still be able to do the things that made him a reliable starter: shoot the basketball and make the easy pass on offense and stay in front of his man on defense.
Meniscus surgery is very safe, as knee surgeries go. As long as his meniscus is still intact, Williams should be every bit the player and athlete he was before the initial injury, including the ability to do this:
We at THB wish him a speedy and full recovery.