CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kennedy Meeks arrived in the Queen City on Tuesday evening for the ACC Operation Basketball media event, and waiting for him was a gift box that included a XXXL shirt.
Meeks scoffed at the offering, drawing a look of doubt from teammate Justin Jackson.
“He told me he wore an extra large, and I told him, ‘No, I don’t think you wear an extra large because I wear an extra large,’” Jackson told reporters on Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton. “So he put on the XXXL and it was actually too big for him… It wasn’t a dress, but it was really baggy.”
The junior center’s weight has been a topic of discussion every since he enrolled at 317 pounds in June 2013. Meeks cut down to 270 pounds prior to his sophomore season, and the results were evident early. He averaged 13.0 points on 57.8 percent shooting and 8.3 rebounds per game during UNC’s first 21 contests.
There were a handful of standout performances in the two months that followed – he scored 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting in a loss at Duke – although those were exceptions in a late-season decline fueled by weight gain.
“It was being complacent and taking things for granted because I was so happy that I lost all of that weight,” Meeks said. “I gained 5-10 pounds back, and you could definitely tell a big difference in 5-10 pounds as opposed to being lighter towards the beginning of the season when I was playing so well.
“You could see my game gradually fall, my numbers fall, so it was disappointing for me.”
Meeks averaged 9.3 points on 53.5 percent shooting and 6.1 rebounds per game over UNC’s final 16 contests. He admits his conditioning suffered as the year wore on, which led to a drop in minutes played.
After another offseason working with UNC strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian, Meeks has lost 15 pounds and now weighs 255 pounds. He says he’s more mature in his approach, eating better foods such as salads and grilled chicken, and he now understands how individual setbacks can affect the team’s goals.
While Meeks did not have exact body fat percentage statistics, it’s evident his body composition has changed from a year ago. He’s slimmer with more muscle definition, improvements which have – thus far – carried over to the court.
“I’ve been jumping a lot better,” Meeks said. “This year I’ve had a lot more dunks in practice and hedging out on screens, denying the ball and getting steals for fullcourt plays. I think all of that comes into play with the physical aspect.”
Those comments are not intended to conjure up images of Meeks copying teammates Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks with towering dunks.
“I don’t think it’s about the dunking aspect; I think it’s about me being more aggressive to the basket,” Meeks said. “I’m not the same player I used to be as far as being an under-the-basket player. A couple of dunks won’t hurt, but two points is two points. I’m still going to be the same player as far as scoring the ball, just with a little more effort and jumping ability.”
There is no photographic evidence of Meeks wearing his XXXL shirt on Tuesday night, although he offered to take a picture to silence any skeptics. There was no need. The XL UNC golf shirt that Meeks was wearing at the media dais was proof enough.