ATLANTA — A home win over North Carolina would be a good step toward a turnaround for a Georgia Tech basketball team that has lost three of its last four games.
Some positive medical news for Robert Carter Jr. could make it an even better Wednesday for the Yellow Jackets.
Coach Brian Gregory says he expects to learn Wednesday if Carter has a chance to return this season from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Carter, a sophomore forward, was tied for the Atlantic Coast Conference lead in rebounding when he hurt his knee in a win at Charlotte on Dec. 29. At the time, Gregory said Carter had only a "very slight" chance to return this season. On Monday, Gregory said Carter was "progressing well."
"What we will find out on Wednesday is are we going to progress with the idea of him coming back this year, or are we going to move forward with the idea that we are going to shelve him for the rest of the year," Gregory said. "That will be the decision. If the decision is he's going to come back, we might have a timeline of when that's going to be."
Carter was averaging 10.3 points and 9.3 rebounds before he was hurt just before the start of the Yellow Jackets' ACC schedule.
Gregory said Carter's rehabilitation has included "zero-gravity running."
"He'd play right now. That kid wants to get out there right now," Gregory said. "But with all stuff like that, we make sure we do what's best for the kid."
Georgia Tech (11-9, 2-5 ACC) is coming off an 80-78 overtime loss at North Carolina State on Sunday.
Wednesday night's game against North Carolina (12-7, 2-4) comes in the middle of a five-game stretch that includes four road games for Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets won at Boston College before falling to N.C. State, despite senior center Daniel Miller's career-high 21 points and 14 rebounds.
"We're probably playing our best basketball of the season right now," Gregory said. "Now would we be better with Robert? Obviously. ... But our defense needs to get better."
Miller said the Yellow Jackets have to plan to play without Carter.
"We'd like to have him back as soon as we can, but we have to do our best without him," Miller said.
Georgia Tech has played with as few as eight scholarship players in its ACC schedule. Backup guard Travis Jorgenson was lost with a season-ending knee injury in the season's fourth game. Senior Jason Morris returned against Boston College after missing two games with a concussion. Sophomore Solomon Poole has missed the last five games due to what Georgia Tech says is "a migraine and other medical issues."
Trae Golden, a senior transfer from Tennessee, leads Georgia Tech with his averages of 14.3 points and 3.4 assists. Guard Marcus Georges-Hunt is averaging 11.8 points.
Miller, who has started each of his 113 games at Georgia Tech, is averaging 10.7 points, a modest mark considering his 60-percent shooting from the field.
Sunday's game at N.C. State was a rare opportunity for Miller (6-11 ½, 275) to take the scoring lead. He said he was trying to boost his scoring even before Carter's injury.
"It's always fun to be scoring a lot," Miller said. "It doesn't always happen for me. I've been trying to score a little more this season. It's fun when you're taking shots and they're going in."
Senior Kammeon Holsey replaced Carter in the lineup, but Georgia Tech has to play with a smaller lineup when Miller or Holsey are not on the floor.
Gregory said Miller "was just into the game, offensively and defensively" against N.C. State. The Yellow Jackets' lack of depth on the front line was a factor as Miller logged 42 minutes.
"The problem is 42 minutes is just a lot of minutes to play, and there were a couple of plays later in the stage of the game where he was dead on his feet," Gregory said. "He fought through it and all that, but that's a lot of minutes."