Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina

UNC Basketball Insider: Kennedy Meeks

Inside Carolina compiled insider perspectives to create an exclusive player-by-player preview of North Carolina's 2016-17 season.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- The 2015-16 season was expected to serve as Kennedy Meeks’s breakout campaign. His potential was obvious as a freshman, and his dramatic transformation led to some inconsistencies during his sophomore year. After a strong start – Meeks posted a double-double with 25 points and 11 rebounds in the opener against Temple – a lingering bone bruise in his left knee sidelined the 6-foot-10, 260-pound center for seven games. He struggled upon his return for much of the conference slate, later acknowledging a need to adjust his mental approach to the game. UNC will no longer be able to rely on Brice Johnson’s effectiveness in the post, thereby heightening the urgency for Meeks to play up to his potential as a veteran big with a smooth skill set.

DOSSIER

Boasts a career field goal percentage of 55.4.

Grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the Final Four and national championship game.

Averaged a free throw attempt every 11 minutes last season, a career low.

STAT WATCH

Consistency from Kennedy Meeks on a game-to-game basis – and even within games themselves – would go a long way towards helping the team considering the impact he can have on both ends of the court. Meeks had the team’s second-best defensive rating last year (96.9 points allowed per 100 possessions), and his block percentage (5.2%) was a close second to Brice Johnson. While his free throw rate is too low (25.5% - second lowest on the team), he graded out very well as a scorer, especially in the halfcourt (79th percentile nationally), against both man and zone defenses. He was far more effective catching and scoring while cutting to the basket (1.222 PPP and 62.9% FG) than in post-up situations (0.779 PPP, 43.4% FG). The fact that he ranked below average (45th percentile) nationally as a post-up scorer is surprising considering his scouting report. On the boards, he ranked in the national Top 50 in offensive rebound percentage (team-high 13.5%).

SCOUTING INSIDER

by Rob Harrington

Smoothing out the peaks and valleys will be key for Meeks. The senior center opened last year looking like the squad’s best player, but he struggled with injuries and confidence at midseason before regaining form to close the campaign. He won’t be able to rely on the presence of Brice Johnson this season, however, and thus the Tar Heels need him to become more consistent. He certainly has accumulated experience on the big stage, whether as a freshman versus Iowa State or in last year’s national final. Meeks possesses the talent and experience to compile a big senior year, he simply needs to find the consistency that will enable him to become a season-long factor.

ACC INSIDER

by ACC Coaches

"He’s got a big body, a big butt. The easiest way to stop a guy in the post is to not let them catch it but it’s hard not to let him catch it because he’s got such a wide body and he knows how to use it well and he can go over both shoulders. I think he prefers the turnaround jumper over his right, but he can shoot a hook both ways, so it makes it difficult."

"First and foremost, don’t let him get the ball. The thing he can also do is step out, shooting the ball 15-17 feet; very good shooter. Defensively, like Tony Bradley, you want to run him and move him all over the court.”

“He did a good job of getting his body in shape last year. You know if you give him deep position it’s a bucket. If he’s still in great shape, he’s obviously probably going to be one of the best, if not the best, back to the basket scoring threats in the league. He can score with both hands so just don’t want to let him get deep position. He’s a guy who has always had a solid mid range jump-shot. Good passer -- good outlet passer.”

UNC INSIDER

by Dewey Burke

First and foremost, can he stay healthy?  A healthy Kennedy is a very solid contributor to our team and how we play. We need low-post scoring and offensive rebounding, and Kennedy provides both.  He's also an excellent passer.  Conditioning has been a theme of his career since he came to Carolina, and this year is no different. A fit and trim Kennedy that can run the floor can be a 12-15 ppg and 7-10 rpg guy for us.  If he's not healthy and loses the ability to move and jump adequately, his usage diminishes.

Kennedy also, even as a senior, can have the tendency to get down on himself.  When he's confident, he uses his great hands well and makes plays.  When he sulks he is ineffective.  Everyone knows we play from the inside out, and Kennedy is our most naturally gifted scorer on the interior.  Here's to hoping that spending as much time around Sean May as possible has helped him realize what his potential is, so he can finish his UNC career on a healthy, high note.


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