Leading up to the season most in the media were predicting that the North Carolina Tar Heels starting center battle would come down to, junior Desmond Hubert and sophomore Joel James. Both of them are right in the mix but freshman big man Kennedy Meeks is gaining ground fast and no one should be surprised if he grabs that starting spot.
If “Late night with Roy” and the first exhibition game versus UNC Pembroke is any indication, the Tar Heels may have just found their answer to the question at center. I’m aware that we have a very small sample size but Meeks has showed off the skills that made him a McDonald’s All American in high school. He has some Carolina fans hoping that he is the man in the middle from the start of the season. The 6’9 290 lbs big man from Charlotte has displayed his solid post game, his great hands and even a little range, making him a serious threat offensively.
The biggest surprise so far could be Kennedy’s conditioning. He looks to be in much better shape than many anticipated, so with that said the question of whether he can get up and down the court in Ol’ Roy’s fast break offense should be no more. Of the trio Meeks already seems to be the most effective in the post. He uses his wide body to create space around the basket and finishes with his soft touch, combine that with good footwork and just having the confidence to score with his back to the basket and that should really give him a leg up in this race.
Defensively is where Meeks has the most ground to make up. Desmond Hubert is the team’s top shot blocker and If Joel James can learn to use his size and length, he could become a pretty good defender. Kennedy is not a shot blocker, however he can use his size to get position and gobble up his fair share of boards. If he’s able to do that, Carolina fans will be just fine with his “D” considering what he could potentially do on the other end.
If I had to handicap this competition, Joel James would have a slight edge on experience and the strides he seems to have made himself, but the freshman is coming and by seasons end it may his job to lose.