Posted: 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013
By Brian Barbour
PF Kennedy Meeks, Freshman, 6-9, 290 lbs
Kennedy Meeks enters his freshman season at UNC as one of five true big men on the Tar Heel roster. By all accounts he also is in position to challenge for the starting spot at center. Early reports from practice have placed the competition squarely between sophomore Joel James and Meeks. James has a year under his belt and is probably in better shape overall. Meeks is more skilled who Roy Williams said had the best outlet pass he's ever seen in a big man he has coached.
However, Meeks' weight and conditioning is the one aspect that everyone will focus on. Since UNC runs an up-tempo offense, it helps if everyone on the floor can run and be conditioned enough to keep up with the pace. No one is expecting Meeks to be Tyler Zeller out there. In fact, Meeks' skill as a passer makes him more valuable starting the break rather than finishing it. The problem is Meeks won't be able to do anything if he cannot stay on the court. When he arrived in Chapel Hill, Williams said Meeks was 317. He is being listed now at 290 with Williams mentioning he was down to 285. That is significant weight loss no matter who you are and shows once again that Jonas Sahratian is the best in the business in getting Tar Heel players ready to play.
Assuming Meeks' conditioning is not a major issue, he should be an important contributor if his passing is as advertised. Marcus Paige mentioned Meeks is capable of throwing strikes from 75-feet away, clearly something that is very helpful given the nature of the Tar Heel fast break. And with UNC's struggle in recent years facing zone defenses, having a player who can step into the middle of that zone, receive the pass then make a good pass out when it collapses on him could be just what the proverbial doctor ordered.
The questions concerning Meeks are his ability to play defense and rebound. The latter is not expected to be an issue since Meeks has great hands and should get position around the basket using his size. If Meeks can be an effective rebounder, especially on the defensive end, it creates opportunities for him to throw outlet passes which he excels at. In terms of playing defense, his size might be an issue if he is unable to deal with quicker big men around the basket. Yes, Meeks would be tough to post up against but if he is pulled away from the basket by a player like Duke's Jabari Parker, it could be an issue. Then again, most big men, Joel James included will probably have an issue in such a match-up.
As with all freshman, it is difficult to judge until you see them in live action. Regardless of who actually starts, the competition between Meeks, James and the other big men is a healthy one which should only spur them to improve. James and Meeks bring some different skills to the table so it would not be surprising to see the minutes split. At any rate, depth in the post won't be a problem which is more than anyone can say for the wing and back court.