Nov 8, 2013; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forwards Brice Johnson (11) and J.P. Tokoto (13) and Kennedy Meeks (3) celebrate in the second half. The Tar Heels defeated the Oakland Golden Grizzlies 84-61 at Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC Basketball: Kennedy Meeks already outplaying Joel James

This off-season, the popular opinion of many fans and experts was that freshman center Kennedy Meeks would need at least one season to lose weight and get in better conditioning to play Coach Williams’s up tempo style. However, in the Tar Heels first game last Friday, that was not case. Meeks had 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists against Oakland after having 11 points and 6 rebounds in the exhibition game. The freshman has outscored sophomore starter Joel James in both games while playing fewer minutes, which has led some to believe and predict that it will only be a matter of time before Meeks replaces James in the starting lineup.

The Charlotte native arrived on campus weighing 317 pounds but thanks to a strict diet and workout plan from Jonas Sahratian, the Heels strength and conditioning coordinator, Meeks is now reportedly weighing in at 281 pounds. The results of the weigh loss were apparent in the first game as the freshman never appeared to be tired or winded and also appeared to be more explosive than before. Meeks came in with a reputation as being a great passer and that also showed in the first game. Meeks made two two great cross court passes to Marcus Paige out of the post for his first two 3-pointers of the game. He also showed off his outlet passing skills off of his first two defensive rebounds that led to a James Michael McAdoo alley-oop slam and another Paige 3-pointer on the fast break. The freshman was so impressive in the first half that it led game analyst Mike Gminski to speculate that he will be the player to breakout among the three centers and earn the most playing time.

The fact that Kennedy Meeks has outplayed Joel James to this point does not mean James has played terrible because he has not. However, the sophomore is still making mental mistakes such as not boxing out on rebounds and missing easy lap-ups. Those are areas he must improve in as well as his offensive game. Meeks is way more along offensively than is James, with great hands and touch around the basket with the potential to be a great low post scorer. If he continues with this hot start, Meeks could land in the starting lineup soon.

Tags: Joel James Kennedy Meeks North Carolina Tar Heels

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