CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – After playing limited minutes in No. 5 North Carolina’s win over Syracuse last weekend, junior forward Kennedy Meeks may find himself back in the starting lineup against N.C. State on Saturday.
“If he has a very good practice today, I might even turn him back around and start him tomorrow,” head coach Roy Williams said on Friday. “But he’s got to have a very good practice.”
Williams added that Meeks "did not appear to have any problems whatsoever" physically.
Meeks has suffered with a bone bruise in his left knee dating back to the summer. UNC's training staff elected to sit him for four weeks following UNC’s loss at Texas on Dec. 12 to give the knee time to heal. Meeks returned to action against Syracuse, scoring eight points and grabbing two rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench.
The Charlotte, N.C. native is averaging 11.9 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game this season.
What’s the schedule been like with a full week between games?
“The schedule’s been so hectic, I have a hard time remembering what time of day we had. I guess we played Saturday. We gave them Sunday off. We practiced on Monday. Just brought them in for running and shooting Tuesday. Gave them Wednesday off. Practiced full yesterday and we’ll go full today, because we’ve been trying to balance it out. First week of classes, getting them into the routine of getting back in classes, that kind of thing. Giving some people some time to heal some of the little aches and pains, and yet, we need the practice time, so we need a little bit of both.”
You said Justin Jackson had a fever last Saturday. Is he okay?
“Yeah. He’s practiced Monday, running and shooting Tuesday, practiced yesterday. It took a little toll for him for about 48 hours, but that was it.”
The NCAA changed its draft withdrawal date this week. Can you reflect back on 2008 when it was mid-June before you knew if your guys were coming back?
“I’ve always said that that was the worst, because, if I’m not mistaken, and I don’t think I am, I think we didn’t know until June 15th. I think I’m right on that. And that was— Everybody’s got enough time, then. I’m sort of in the middle. Some guys will say ‘Well football players have six days,’ something like that, and basketball players use three years and 17 days and all this kind of stuff. So there’s got to be a better balance in there, and I think that this calendar will address that, and I think it helps the kids more. I think it’s not as bad as it used to be by any means for the coaches, so I think it’s a good compromise, too.”
What are your thoughts on the new NCAA rule that says players should be able to entertain the NBA not just one year, but every year?
“It’s the way it should be. I like that. Just because you do it one time, and you decide to pull out, doesn’t mean your game can’t change, and your attractiveness can’t change, so I think it’s good.”
How hard is it for your team not to slack up against an opponent that is 0-4 in the conference like N.C. State?
“I’m not even gonna use that terminology, because if we slack up, I’m really gonna be ticked. It’s the ACC. It’s North Carolina against North Carolina State. Our record was better than their record was last year, if I’m not mistaken, and they came in here and whacked us in our own building. The fewest points ever scored by a North Carolina team in the Smith Center. I’ve got a very short memory, I can remember that kind of stuff. I’ve got a long memory, too, but I don’t think I’ll have to say anything about them being fired up, I mean this is the ACC. And again, it is North Carolina-North Carolina State. You have to be ready to play every day in this league. If you’re not ready to play, or you’re going through the motions, then all of a sudden you’re down 20, and you’re not gonna be able to come back. But we need to play well. We need to let the score take care of itself, but we need to play well.”
Have you gone over what happened against N.C. State last year with this year’s team?
“I make sure they remember the dadgum thing. I don’t have to say anything, I said ‘Do you guys remember?’ and they said ‘Yes,’ so I’ll leave it alone. They’d have to be brain-dead. I mean it was the fewest number of points ever scored by a North Carolina team in the Smith Center. If I have to remind them of that, we’re not very competitive. But today, we’re gonna try to get better. We’re not gonna go out there just to try to take a revenge on North Carolina State. That’s the way we’ve attacked it all year long. But they remember that. I’ve already said something about it, but that’s not gonna be the complete content of my practice today, the complete content of my pregame meal talk, or the complete content of my pregame talk. If I were a player, the coach wouldn’t have to say a word to me. It’s North Carolina-North Carolina State, regardless of what happened last year. But when you have that, it does add something to it, but if we can’t get enthused to play against North Carolina State, then I’ve got the wrong group of guys.”
Is there a specific thing you can point to in a game where you can tell depth really does matter?
“No, it’s just a general feel. But I prepare to play a lot of guys, because I think it helps you throughout the course of a long season. There are times in a game where we’ll say ‘Guys, they’re holding onto their shorts, they’re barely walking back to the court,’ so we talk about it sometimes, but it’s not scientific enough to say at the 31-minute mark, we know we’ve really got it then. And you know, you see a lot of football teams, man, it’s so funny, because the fourth quarter starts, and they’re walking around holding up four fingers, and I watch both teams do it. So what does that mean? We don’t do anything like that, but I think depth is extremely important to me over the course of a season more so than any single game.”