Last season, the Tar Heels struggled to get any kind of production from their frontcourt with the exception of James Michael McAdoo. That issue lingered all season and proved to be something they could not overcome.
This season that weakness has become a strength in large part to the play of talented freshman Kennedy Meeks, who despite not starting has thoroughly out-played starter Joel James though eight games this season. His great play resulted in him winning his first ACC Rookie of the Week award this week as the Heels get ready to host traditional non-conference rival Kentucky and its highly touted freshmen class.
Kennedy Meeks has played a major role in the Heels two biggest wins so far this season over defending national champion Louisville and top-ranked Michigan State. Against the Cardinals, the Charlotte native had 13 points with 12 rebounds and 7 assists. That performance came one day after being called “the worst player on the planet” by Coach Roy Williams following a 1 point, 3 rebound game against Richmond.
After another subpar game in a disappointing loss to UAB, he came back and had 15 points, 7 rebounds in only 15 minutes in the win against MichiganState. He followed that with 12 points and 8 rebounds against UNC-Greensboro. Since the Richmond game he is averaging 11 points and 8 rebounds while hitting 19-27 of his field goad attempts. He has been at his best in the Heels biggest games so far which is huge as Heels get ready to face their third ranked opponent of the non-conference.
The big man has been a force in the half-court for the Heels thanks to a huge weight loss as a result of a strict diet and intense workout regime from Jonas Sahratian, the Heels strength and conditioning coordinator. Meeks arrived in Chapel Hill weighing 317 pounds but now weighs 280 pounds. The loss in weight has helped him stay on the court for long stints of time and allowed him to outperform starter Joel James. Despite both players each playing 14 minutes per game, Meeks is averaging more points, rebounds and is shooting a better percentage from the floor. He is also demonstrating his outstanding passing skills for a big man, which allow him to create scoring chances for his teammates.
He has also shown the potential to be a dominant low post scorer in the same way that Sean May was- with great touch and soft hands around the basket. If Meeks continues his outstanding play all the way into conference season, Coach Williams might have to seriously consider adding the freshman big man to the starting lineup.