Over the past two seasons, UNC’s forwards have shown flashes off potential, but the physical development and maturity of the underclassmen has limited their production. The former aspect appears to have been corrected this offseason.
“I have great expectations for those guys,” UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters at Media Day on Wednesday. “I think they’ve all put the work in to get better off the court.”
For Meeks, the focus has always been trying to lose weight. The 6-foot-9 forward arrived on campus in the summer of 2013 weighing in at 317 pounds. Throughout his freshman season, Meeks struggled with his conditioning and the demands of UNC’s up-tempo offense.
During the offseason, the sophomore’s commitment to an intensive workout program has helped him become more explosive. Meeks also went on a diet plan that was similar to that of teammate Joel James.
“It’s a time for us to show what we’ve been working on this whole time.” Meeks said. “Coach is right, I’ve really worked the hardest I ever have in my life.”
After six months of work, the results have been impressive. Meeks now weighs between 265 and 270 pounds, about a 50-pound drop from where he was just over a year ago.
“I think he’s got to realize that he’s worked his tail off off the court,” Williams said. “To me, it’s a lot more difficult than changing as a basketball player.”
Now Meeks has to figure out how to adjust from a physicality standpoint, in addition to incorporating his skill set. When asked how his more athletic build helped his game, Meeks responded with one word: “Aggressive.”
His head coach agreed.
“He’s done the harder thing, but getting him to understand that explosiveness, and you have to have it more than once… and be more aggressive” Williams said.
Compared to Meeks, Johnson has dealt with quite the opposite issue. As a freshman, Johnson stood 6-foot-9 and 187 pounds.
Two years later, after an offseason of eating “everything he could,” Johnson is just shy of 230 pounds.
“That (the weight) was the biggest one, because that was the one thing Coach is always emphasizing,” Johnson said.
The biggest knock on Johnson has been that opponents have had an easy time pushing him around underneath the basket. According to Johnson, however, his increased size and strength will make that less of a problem this season.
“This added weight should help a lot more because nobody will be able to move me as much,” Johnson said. “I’ll be able to box out better and be able to hold people off.”
As encouraging as the offseason results have been for these two players, their head coach knows that it is only the first step towards getting better results on the court.
“Those guys all did a nice job in the offseason of doing the things the can do with their bodies, and now they have to translate it,” Williams said.
Shaping UNC's Frontcourt
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