Here is a look back at the 2014-15 season for the returning Tar Heels. Today we look at sophomore Kennedy Meeks.
Hey, you may not have heard, but Kennedy Meeks lost a lot of weight last off-season. The leaner, meaner Meeks was a favorite topic of conversation on pretty much every UNC basketball broadcast well into January and the result was a fairly stellar start to the season. Meeks posted double-doubles in 7 of his first 13 games in 2014-15 and twice more had 9 rebounds. In all he posted double-figure rebounds in 9 of those games and was doing this all while clocking a good 24-28 minutes a game. But as strong as his first third of the season was, the final two-thirds of the season was marked by inconsistency and illness. Over the last 25 games, Meeks only posted two more double-doubles (both against NC State) and played 22 minutes or less 10 times. As the season wore on, Meeks seemed to stay on the wrong side of healthy and missed the ACC Tournament opener against Boston College. Despite his weight loss, Meeks seemed to hit a wall for the final 10 games of the year, only scoring in double figures once.
When Meeks was good, he was very good. He is an excellent passer and when he was rebounding and starting Carolina's transition, the Tar Heels were as quick down the floor as any team in the country. He was an absolute beast in the first Duke game, putting up 18 points and 7 rebounds, and was the only bright spot in the otherwise dismal second State game with 12 points and 14 rebounds. On the other hand, Meeks ended up coming off the bench in early February after a dreadful outing against Virginia. What's more, Meeks and Brice Johnson could never seem to develop a lot of rhythm, what with Meeks' inconsistency and Johnson's penchant for foul trouble. And it is worth noting that as UNC rounded into form in the post-season, it was Johnson becoming the go-to player inside and the emergence of Isaiah Hicks that led the Heels down low, not Meeks as would have been expected.
For the season Meeks was fairly efficient, averaging 11.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in only a shade over 22 minutes per game, and was named honorable mention All-ACC. But his season will likely be remembered for the inconsistency and for never really showing over the course of the year the flashes of brilliance he showed early. Like much of this year's team, it is difficult to know how much the ongoing health issues slowed Meeks and how the season might have been different if he had been 100% for all 38 games.
What to expect next season
Meeks famously lost a lot of weight working last summer with UNC strength and conditioning guru Jonas Sahratian; for his next trick Sahratian needs to make Meeks stronger. Despite packing north of 270 pounds, Meeks often struggled with big, strong teams. Meeks was also often soft around the basket and while he made over 56% of his shots, given the type of shots he was taking, it would have been nice to see that number closer to 60-62%. Meeks would also be well-served to develop some range out to 10-12 feet to open up defenders who would otherwise pack it in against him.
With all four primary bigs returning, Meeks will be part of a deep, experienced rotation with Johnson, Hicks, and Joel James. For much of the season UNC was among the country's best in offensive rebounding and with those four players Roy Williams will have 80 minutes and 20 fouls to distribute. Meeks began the 2014-15 season as the supposed leader of UNC's post corps and that spot should be open to him again. A stronger, more consistent Meeks on both ends of the floor that can give 30 minutes per night when needed will go a long way towards helping Carolina build on the season-ending momentum from this year.