Wednesday, February 4, 2009

With Heels depleted, pressure's on Copeland

So far, Mike Copeland's most notable contribution for the Tar Heels this season is his staredown with Ben McCauley late in Saturday's win over N.C. State. He's going to have to do more now.

The announcement late Tuesday night that Marcus Ginyard will redshirt and Will Graves is suspended, depriving North Carolina of two key reserves for what is intended to be a national-title run, puts pressure on Copeland to step in and contribute.

Carolina coach Roy Williams said he'd prefer to go with a nine-man rotation, which means Copeland — who played a season-high seven minutes Tuesday and a total of 12 minutes in six other games this season after returning from a knee injury — may be in position to take a bigger role.

Copeland can't fill the void Ginyard leaves defensively (no one can) but he does give the Heels some additional beef (and five extra fouls) down low.

"I gave 'Cope' a couple extra runs tonight and hopefully he'll be able to do that," Williams said. "Bobby (Frasor) played 24 minutes Saturday and 18 today. Larry (Drew II) played a little bit more. I'd have to sit down and think — you've got five and Larry is six and Bobby is seven
and Ed (Davis) is eight. I'm hoping we can go nine and get 'Cope' in there."

That could depend on the health of freshman forward Tyler Zeller, who Williams said will meet with doctors Wednesday to determine if and when he can return from a broken wrist, but until Zeller gets the green light, the senior from Winston-Salem is the ninth guy on Carolina's depth chart.

On the season, Copeland is averaging 1.1 points and 0.9 rebounds in 2.7 minutes per game this season and almost exactly similar numbers per game for his career. Zeller, in the two games he played before he was injured, scored 20 points and had three rebounds — starting ahead of fellow freshman Davis when Tyler Hansbrough was hurt to start the season.

-- Luke DeCock