CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Roy Williams has longed stressed the importance of rebounding, and so far this season Kennedy Meeks is setting the tone on the glass.
The senior center has had a hot start on the boards for the Tar Heels, pulling down 27 rebounds in UNC’s first two games. Even with those kinds of numbers, Williams hasn’t gone overboard in his praise after victories over Tulane and Chattanooga.
“Kennedy did a great job on the defensive board,” Williams said on his radio show on Monday. “He got some offensive rebounds too, but most of those were off of his own misses… (Chattanooga) was probably more impressive than the other one because four of your rebounds coming from misses from two feet are not what you want.”
Williams says that rebounding improvements were the priority throughout the offseason.
“We do have to really emphasis the backboards more than anything we’ve emphasized in practice all year,” Williams said.
No one has taken to that mentality more than Meeks, according to Williams.
His rebounding totals, plus his offensive production in the paint, have been significant factors in the Tar Heels’ early wins. He’s averaging 11.5 points per game and has helped UNC outscore its opponents 96-42 in the paint. Meeks also became the 73rd Tar Heel in history to score 1,000 career points on Sunday.
In Sunday’s win over Chattanooga your team forced 26 turnovers… It was such a suffocating effort from your team.
“It really was. It was good for us that Chattanooga beat Tennessee at Tennessee. So that made us say ‘hey, lets wake up this is a pretty good team.’ They won 29 games last year, have five seniors and three of them being fifth-year seniors. Four starters back, Casey Jones had missed last year to an injury, but they’re a very experienced team… We didn’t like some of the things we did against Tulane. We were better in some of those areas against Chattanooga.”
Joel Berry was named Co-ACC Player of the Week. He had 18 against Chattanooga last night and is averaging 20.5 ppg in the two games so far, and he seems to be a real defensive catalyst for your team.
“I’ve talked to him and Seventh Woods and Nate (Britt) also about picking up in the backcourt because that’s where our defense starts. The biggest difference from my first year here a long time ago, the 2003-2004 season to the 2004-2005 was Raymond Felton putting pressure on the opposing team’s point guard. That was the biggest difference. The second biggest difference was Sean May’s improvement and Raymond’s improvement with their shot. Raymond really started to put pressure on the point guard on top.”
One negative from the game was an injury to Luke Maye. Any update on how Luke’s doing?
“Yeah, they did an X-ray this morning that came out negative. So there’s no break there, but they’re also doing an MRI tonight because there’s still some concern. He’s feeling better today than he did yesterday and that’s a good thing. I won’t know anything until we look at the MRI…. I did not see the play, but he came down and came down on the side of one of the Chattanooga player’s foot. It looked like just a normal sprain but it was an unusual pain for him and he’s a tough kid.”
Your team has 49 assists on 68 field goals this year. What do you make of that?
“I would like to think that very few teams in the country can do that kind of thing. We’ve always been really about having a high percentage of our baskets (come from assists), because then it’s a team brand of basketball opposed to one guy just trying to take it one-on-one.”
In your offensive scheme, how different are the four and five positions? Could all four bigs you have rotate relatively easily?
“If it’s in a halfcourt set, then the four and five are exactly the same…. It’s the same spot offensively. There’s a little difference on the out-of-bounds plays, because they have different assignments. Secondary breaks it’s exactly the same, freelance it’s exactly the same. The only difference is on the defensive end of the court, the bigger, stronger, more imposing guy that protects the rim guards the five on the other team. The guy next guards the four-man and needs to be able to slid his feet a little better. Right now, because he’s a freshman, we’re trying to keep Tony (Bradley) just at the five.”
What catches your eye during practices that could move a player up or down in your rotation?
“There’s no question that every day you could move up or down. I try to make every day competitive, every drill is competitive. Somebody wins and somebody loses, somebody runs and somebody doesn’t run. I want my practice to be so competitive that each job is in jeopardy. Now somebody like Joel Berry and Justin Jackson who have built up some equity, it’s going to take a bigger deal… I’ve had guys that started every game as a junior, and his senior year he started no games except senior night because of a guy named Paul Pierce who played behind him and beat him out…. I do not decide who starts, the players do.”
Have you discussed the possibility of redshirting Theo Pinson with his injury?
“I’m not even thinking about that now. We’ll think about things like that when you need to think about them. Right now we’re concentrating on his rehab, what he’s supposed to be doing. But no, we’re not doing anything like that.”