Kennedy Meeks is UNC’s only center in the recruiting class of 2013, joining future teammates Isaiah Hicks and Nate Britt in the Tar Heel incoming freshman class. Meeks is by far the biggest of the three recruits, checking in at 6’9″, 275 pounds. Meeks was rated a four star recruit by ESPN recruiting services, and was ranked the 6th best center in the class of 2013. He stayed in state to play for Carolina, coming from West Charlotte High School and picking the Heels over Georgetown. Kennedy Meeks figures to have a big impact for the Tar Heels in the upcoming season.
The most obvious comparison currently on the roster to Meeks would be now sophomore Joel James, just from their similar measurables. Both James and Meeks weigh over 250 pounds, but offer different skill sets for Coach Roy Williams to use at his disposal. Meeks has an impressive outside shooting range, with the ability to step all the way back and shoot the three. He also has a developing post game, including a solid turn around hook shot. UNC really could use a big man with a back to the basket post game, and Meeks looks like he could fill that void. He also has a good sense of passing, showing off some nice passing skills at the McDonalds All-American event, another rare yet desirable trait for a center. Some of the knocks on Meeks include that he may need to lose some weight before he can keep up with the Heels fast paced offense. Also, Kennedy may lack some of the explosiveness that someone like James Michael McAdoo brings to the table. In the handful of YouTube videos I watched, I did not see Meeks dunk the ball once. I’m not saying he can’t dunk, but he isn’t the type of player that will send the crowd into a frenzy after soaring in for a putback dunk.
Playing time will be hard earned for Meeks in his first season in Chapel Hill due to the depth of the Carolina frontcourt. McAdoo headlines the returning Heels, including Joel James, Brice Johnston, and Desmond Hubert, while freshmen Hicks and Meeks will also be vying for playing time. Although at the end of last season UNC switched to a four guard lineup, UNC should return to starting two big men. This is for multiple reasons, including the lack of depth on the wing and the before mentioned depth down low. McAdoo has one starting spot on lockdown, but the other spot is definitely up for grabs. Who should start with McAdoo is another article, but Meeks may not be the best fit. The ideal front court partner with McAdoo is a shot blocking defender first, who is active enough on the offensive glass and someone who can operate with his back to the basket. Meeks isn’t really a shot blocker, and I already have questions about Meeks’s ability to rebound, just from his lack of “rejumpability,” as Jay Bilas would say. He would fit as the back to the basket scorer, but also needs to bring his weight down before he can fully embrace that role. I don’t think Meeks will win the starting job out of the gate, but he will have chances early on to prove his skill set down low.
Offensively, I think Meeks would fit best as the fulcrum of the North Carolina offense. The fulcrum, a term that I kind of just made up, is the big man that stands at the top of the key and passes the ball from side to side as the offense runs its course. Meeks could fit into that role because he wouldn’t have to run the floor on every position, (generally the job of the second big man, think Tyler Zeller,) but rather could labor back, which fits his body type well. Also, Meeks’s three point shooting would be enough of a threat that defenders would have to play up on him, giving the offense plenty of space to operate. Plus he could use his above average passing skills to find an open cutter. Then, later in the shot clock, Meeks could rumble down to the boards and set up for a rebound or possible a late shot clock post up. With McAdoo currently playing this role as “fulcrum,” Meeks may have to wait until the 2013-2014 season until his skill set can be fully used and appreciated.
One other comparison to Meeks would be former Tar Heel Sean May, who played on Carolina’s 2005 National Championship squad. May was a great player for UNC, even though his NBA career may not support the same conclusion. May and Meeks each have that blue collar look to themselves down in the post, fighting for positioning before putting up a crafty layup. Comparing Meeks to May’s production may be unfair, but physically and stylistically, the similarities are evident. May won an NCAA tournament MVP, and someday, Meeks may be doing the same sort of things for the Heels.