Stepheson back on North Carolina bench after week away

Updated: January 7, 2008, 1:44 PM ET
Associated Press

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina sophomore Alex Stepheson will rejoin the team Monday after missing nearly a week because of a family illness.

Coach Roy Williams said the 6-foot-9 reserve forward was expected back at practice Tuesday and should play in Wednesday night's game against North Carolina-Asheville. Stepheson, a Los Angeles native, left the team Jan. 2 to return to California and missed two games.

"It's good [to have him back],'' Williams said. "We need some other big guys, no question."

Stepheson averages 3.5 points and 4.8 rebounds for the top-ranked Tar Heels (15-0), and is a key member of Williams' depleted rotation, backing up Deon Thompson and Tyler Hansbrough.

North Carolina has lost backup guard Bobby Frasor to a season-ending knee injury, and guard Quentin Thomas played just eight minutes in a victory at Clemson after missing two games with an ankle injury.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press