The 2014-15 season is almost here and in preparation for that we profile the players. Today we look at sophomore big man Kennedy Meeks.
Kennedy Meeks, F, 6-9, 270 lbs.
One of the biggest stories of the summer has been the incredible physical transformation of Kennedy Meeks. Meeks arrived in Chapel Hill at almost 320 lbs. and has shed nearly 50 pounds under the watchful eye of UNC's strength and training guru Jonas Sahratian. The initial results have been impressive. Meeks has improved his stamina and jumping ability which will be key as he establishes himself as Carolina's go-to-guy in the low post.
Last season Meeks averaged almost 8 points and 6 rebounds while starting 17 of 34 games as a freshman. He was a rebounding machine, notching 10 games with double-digit rebounds. He also showed some very nice touch with the ball despite his bulk and was among the team leaders in field goal percentage. But he was also a liability at the foul line and his stamina limited him to just over 16 minutes per game.
Now we are looking at Kennedy Meeks 2.0, playing at 270 lbs. and actually able to jump and stay on the floor for longer periods of time. Meeks will be the starter at center and will be part of the primary post rotation with Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks. Meeks will clog up the middle, allowing Johnson and Hicks to work from their more natural power forward position. The three post players will have to make up for James Michael McAdoo's 14 points and 7 rebounds per game but if Meeks averaged over 6 rebounds a game in only 16 minutes last season, there is no reason to believe that trend will not continue when he stretches out to 25-30 minutes.
Perhaps the biggest payoff for UNC with the newly svelte Meeks will be Carolina's ability to return to Roy Williams' preferred style of play, both in transition and in the halfcourt. Williams has always loved big men who can run and get out in transition, and he has always preferred to play inside out. If Meeks can develop into the kind of Sean May-type beefy center but with great touch and surprisingly agile moves around the basket and in transition, it could be a special season down low for the Tar Heels.