North Texas finally received some good news on the injury front Monday, when team trainers had a chance to take a closer look at Alzee Williams’ right knee.
The junior was diagnosed with a mild sprain of his medial collateral ligament, an injury that is expected to keep him out for up to another week.
Williams went down late in UNT’s loss to Florida International on Thursday and missed the Mean Green’s win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday.
Williams, who is averaging 10.7 points a game, did not participate in a team shoot-around on Monday. UNT scaled back what was expected to be a full-scale practice due to a run of injuries that has left the Mean Green with only seven healthy scholarship players as it prepares for a game against Middle Tennessee on Thursday.
“I don’t expect Alzee to play Thursday,” UNT head coach Tony Benford said. “He might play on Saturday, but we don’t know yet. He’s moving better, but he’s really, really sore.”
Williams is a key cog for UNT. He’s the Mean Green’s third-leading scorer, not to mention one of its best ball-handlers and defenders.
With starting point guard Chris Jones out for the year with a broken foot, Williams is one of the only players UNT has who can give backup point guard P.J. Hardwick a break. Hardwick played all 45 minutes in UNT’s overtime win over FAU.
“I didn’t get gassed,” Hardwick said. “Basketball is something I love to do. In college basketball, you get breaks. I was well rested. I was fine.”
UNT moved backup forward Niko Stojiljkovic, who is 6-foot-9, into the starting lineup to play on the perimeter against FAU.
That move is just one of the unusual roster shifts UNT has been forced to make with so many players out.
“I don’t know if P.J. can play 45 minutes again,” Benford said. “Right now, my backup point guard is Tony Mitchell. That is where we are right now. He is our second-best ball-handler.”
Mitchell, a 6-8 forward and the Sun Belt Conference’s Preseason Player of the Year, brought the ball up the floor after grabbing a rebound at times against the Owls.
Mitchell said after practice that he has been given the OK by Benford to push the ball up the floor himself when he has the chance.
The Mean Green didn’t get a lot of work in with its new look lineup Monday, when the team simply took a bit of a break.
“I am really worried about playing these guys too many minutes,” Benford said. “That is why we are not practicing today.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .