Tar Heel Starting Guard Dexter Strickland Suffers Season-Ending Injury

by on November 27th, 2010
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The University of North Carolina Tar Heels found their rhythm in the second half against the Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg, but the Heels lost their best perimeter defender when 6′-3″ junior starting combo guard Dexter Strickland fell to the floor clutching his right knee in agony.

UNC trailed VT 34-39 at the half. Despite the deficit, UNC started the second half playing with intensity and soon tied the game 44-44. Then VT guard Jarell Eddie received the ball at the right elbow, drove to the basket, and rose for his shot only to have it blocked by UNC’s Tyler Zeller. Tar Heel John Henson grabbed the deflected shot and quickly tossed the ball to the right elbow area where Strickland had already started breaking toward the Tar Heel basket.

Strickland, the fastest Tar Heel off the dribble, led his teammates on the break and only had two Hokies, Robert Brown and Erick Green, between him and the basket. Green picked up Strickland and guarded him closely as Strickland drove just outside the right side of the lane. As he reached the lower block, Strickland planted to rise for his shot or a pass to a teammate. But with 16:46 left in the second half, Strickland’s right knee buckled inward, and he fell to the floor clutching his knee and screaming in pain. Tar Heel trainer Chris Hirth and head coach Roy Williams rushed to Strickland’s side.

Strickland’s knee was iced right away to minimalize swelling. He was seen later on the sidelines limping though walking without assistance. After the game, Strickland tweeted: Just want to thank everyone for praying for me..I really appreciate it! I’ll be ok! A thorough medical exam conducted the following day revealed an ACL tear that will sideline the versatile guard at least for the remainder of the 2011-2012 season.

According to official stats available on TarHeelBlue.com, Strickland started all 19 previous games for the Tar Heels this season. Before the contest against the Hokies, Strickland averaged 25.1 minutes per game. He was usually called upon to defend the opponent’s best guard, yet averaged only 1.44 personal fouls per game heading into the contest in Blacksburg. Strickland was also tied with point guard Kendall Marshall in steals. Due in large part to better shot selection this season, Strickland actually led the team in FG% at .570 at the time of his injury.

The Tar Heels will certainly miss Strickland’s defense, toughness, athleticism, and consistency. Sophomore guard Reggie Bullock and freshman guard PJ Hairston are both big, strong, skilled shooting guards who are capable of playing more minutes. In fact, the 6′-7″ Bullock is expected to move into the starting lineup. Without Strickland, however, what the Tar Heels miss most desperately is an ACC-level point guard to spell Kendall Marshall when needed. Perhaps the best replacement for backup point guard duties on the Tar Heel roster is junior shooting guard Leslie McDonald. At this time, unfortunately, he too remains sidelined due to a knee injury.

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