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UNC Basketball: Kennedy Meeks signs with the Toronto Raptors

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The six-foot-ten forward inked his new contract on Tuesday.

2017 NBA Draft Combine - Day Two Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Kennedy Meeks is a Toronto Raptor. Undrafted and largely unheralded coming into the summer, Meeks showed up in Summer League, averaging 11.3 points per game on 55.6% shooting to go along with 5.5 rebounds per game. A bruiser in college whose range rarely extended past the free throw line, Meeks exhibited his ability to stroke the three point ball, which very well may have been the deal breaker.

But Meeks’ journey to becoming an NBA player was not easy. He came to Chapel Hill in 2013 tipping the scale at 317 pounds. Though he was down to 290 by the start of his freshman season, he struggled to thrust himself off the ground and his endurance limited him to just 16 minutes per game. He caught the ire of Roy Williams, Eric Montross, and fans alike for his lack of explosiveness and ability to finish at the rim. Some of it was well founded, some of it was excessive. However, after four years, Meeks would slowly transform his body into a rebounding machine.

Now down to a muscular 260, he has the body of a world-class athlete, with impressive numbers to boot: he ended up averaging just a hair under a double double as a senior, with 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. And, of course, Meeks is a champion and Final Four hero, saving the game against Oregon with a late rebound in the national semifinal, and blocking Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss in the closing seconds to seal the championship.

Listen, Kennedy Meeks is never going to be a high-flying posterizer. That’s not his game; he’s an under-the-rim type of player. It ain’t pretty and it’s frustrating to watch at some points, but it sure is effective, as indicated by his PER of 28.2 in his senior season, a five point improvement from his junior year.

He has a wide array of post moves, but his greatest strength will always be rebounding, and he’s demonstrated that prowess at the next level in the Summer League. Meeks is also a gifted outlet passer, one of the biggest reasons he fit in so well with Roy Williams’ offense. This is a skill that is sought after in a big man, and he should help the Raptors produce easy buckets all season.

The main issue he now faces is simply athleticism—it’ll be tough for him to guard the exceptionally gifted players in the NBA, and this could limit his minutes over the length of his career. His newfound three point shot will obviously be a welcome addition to his offensive game, but it will take a heck of an improvement to see Meeks in a starting lineup one day. Instead, he’ll be the type of player who is asked to come off the bench for a few minutes each game, get a basket, make no mistakes, then come back out once the starters are rested, a la James Michael McAdoo for Golden State.

Something every Raptors fan should be especially excited for is to have a person as awesome as Kennedy Meeks on the team. By all accounts, Meeks is a sincere, kind, funny guy; the sort of player a team can gravitate around. He’s all about positivity, all the time. He’ll be the one to keep his head high after a loss and the one to lead the celebration after a big win, and though he won’t see the court very often in his rookie year, he could still play a large role in the locker room and in practice—for a team with big playoff aspirations like Toronto, that’s a big deal. Simply put, it’s obvious that Kennedy Meeks just really, really loves playing basketball. Now, he’s getting paid to do it.