Meeks Doubtful for Wednesday

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks is battling an illness for the third time in two months. His status is doubtful for the Tar Heels’ ACC Tournament opener on Wednesday, according to Roy Williams.

“He’s running a temperature,” the 12th-year UNC head coach said on Tuesday. “They got it down last night. It was back up again this morning. They tested him for mono, strep, everything, and everything comes up negative.”

Meeks did not practice on Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. The inability to practice makes it unlikely that Meek will be able to play against the winner of Boston College-Georgia Tech in Wednesday’s second-round action.

“I have a great idea that he won’t play tomorrow,” Williams said, “and so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see after that.”

Meeks suffered through a stomach bug the week leading up to UNC’s ACC opener at Clemson in early January. The Charlotte, N.C. native missed one day of practice and was limited in other sessions before posting a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds in the win over the Tigers.

He played against No. 3 Virginia on Feb. 2 despite having a 101-degree fever earlier in the day. After scoring 11 points, grabbing seven rebounds and committing six turnovers against the Cavaliers, Meeks told reporters following the game that he was still suffering with a headache and sore throat.

Meeks was benched for UNC’s next two games, but returned for solid performances against Pitt, Duke and Georgia Tech. He’s struggled ever since, though.

The 6-foot-9, 270-pounder has averaged 6.5 points on 39.3 percent shooting (11-of-28) over his last four games.

“Yeah, he has been off, but we all have our ups and downs,” junior forward Brice Johnson said.

Williams said he didn’t have any idea if Meeks being sick was related to his numbers being down.

“You can’t just look at it and say it’s a wall,” Williams said. “You have to either get over it or walk around the sucker and get to the other side and play… You guys can look at the numbers. He’s just got to play better.”

UNC is already down one 5-man with senior Desmond Hubert out for the year with an ACL injury. Williams said that Johnson could see some time at the five alongside Isaiah Hicks as well as playing his normal position at the four alongside Joel James.

Johnson acknowledged that matchups were the key to his success when having to play the 5-spot. Against teams that play pick-and-pop like Boston College, manning the 5-spot works in Johnson’s favor, while teams with a legitimate physical presence in the post, like Georgia Tech and its 6-foot-8, 276-pounder center in Demarco Cox, prove to be more of a challenge.

That would seem to place an increased level of importance on the outcome of Tuesday’s matchup between the Eagles and Yellow Jackets.

Johnson is holding out hope that his frontcourt teammate will be ready to go on Wednesday.

“I expect him to play because that’s just the competitor that he is,” Johnson said. “The way he was hurt after the Duke game… We all just want a new start.”

Pinson Injury Note:
Williams added that Theo Pinson may not practice on Tuesday. The freshman wing had some soreness in his left foot following the loss to Duke on Saturday.

Pinson returned to action against Georgia Tech last week after missing the previous 10 games due to fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his left foot at Wake Forest on Jan. 21.

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