North Carolina is looking at an extended period of time without sophomore big man Tyler Zeller, as UNC head coach Roy Williams confirmed Friday that he's out approximately four to six weeks with a foot injury.
"It's a stress fracture of the third metatarsal of his right foot," said Williams at his Friday afternoon press conference. "Basically what that means is he's out. The normal time period for these kinds of things is four to six weeks."
Zeller sat out Wednesday night's loss at Clemson with discomfort in his right foot, and subsequent tests by UNC Doctors revealed the stress fracture.
He hasn't played since last Sunday's game in the Smith Center against Virginia Tech.
"Nothing showed up on the X-Ray (early in the week)---and I forget which day that was---and then we did an MRI Monday or Tuesday and nothing showed up, but a bone scan, it (the stress fracture) did show up on Thursday," Williams said of Zeller. "He hasn't had any activity since the Virginia Tech game."
Despite the range of time provided to him by the Doctors, Williams wasn't certain putting an exact time frame on when Zeller could potentially return.
Having dealt with many of these injuries in the past with different players---including last season's injury to Marcus Ginyard---Williams knows that foot injuries like these are unpredictable.
"I guess the best way to put it is he's out indefinitely, because I think that's what everybody with a stress fracture is," Williams said. "But the normal time frame for something like that is four to six weeks, so we'll just have to wait and see."
"We don't know if it will be that long. We don't know if it will be longer," Williams added. "It's just depends on how everybody reacts to the healing process, I guess.
The UNC Medical staff is taking measures to help improve the strength in Zeller's foot and to increase the chances that he can come back at some point this season and help this Tar Heel team when it would need him the most.
The UNC Doctors are glad to have detected the injury early and it doesn't appear for the moment that he's going to have to have surgery on the foot.
"We've got him in a bone stimulator. We do feel good about catching it early," said Williams. "He's already been in a boot---he traveled to Clemson in the boot---and he's already been in the stimulator and he's already been in the pool. He's doing everything he can."
"Again, we feel like we found it early, but the bottom line is that he's out (of game action)," Williams added.
The UNC head coach indicated that while Zeller is naturally not happy about this turn of events---his second injury in as many years that will keep him out of action for a considerable period of time---he says that the Washington (Ind.) native is being mature about the situation knowing that he has no control over what has happened.
"He's frustrated, but you know, he has a wonderful way of handling things. He knows he can't control it," said Williams of his sophomore forward.
Although he was coming off the bench behind Deon Thompson and Ed Davis in the rotation, Zeller was fourth on the UNC roster in scoring (9.6 ppg) and third in rebounding (4.6 rpg), and his absence really hurts the team's depth in the low post.
"Some people look at it and say, 'Well, he doesn't even start for you,' but this is a big-time loss," said Williams. "I mean, he's our fourth-leading scorer and he's averaging almost 10 points a game and only playing 16 minutes a game."
"It was only a week ago that I told him I've got to get him more minutes and he deserves more minutes, so it is a big-time loss, but he realizes that he can't do anything about it and he's got to do the best job he can (to come back)," Williams added.
Zeller's absence in the Tar Heel rotation will provide an opportunity for significantly more playing time for UNC freshmen David Wear and Travis Wear according to Coach Williams.
"It will be similar to what we did at Clemson---the first big man sub was Travis and the second 'big man' sub was David," said Williams.