Sophomore UNC forward Kennedy Meeks will be a whole lot lighter when he takes to the Smith Center floor in 2014. A now fully fit Meeks says he’s grown into a smarter and more physical basketball player heading into year two in Chapel Hill.
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Meeks has rededicated himself to the game of basketball in the offseason. The talented forward says during his maiden Carolina campaign, he didn’t always understand how hard he needed to work to compete at the elite level.
“I think for my freshman year, learning that is not easy. Everything is earned, not given. It’s a pretty long season. You have to work hard every day in practice – even off the court. I think that’s very important to our team this year. I think we learned a lot of lessons from last year that we can carry over to this year,” Meeks says.
But now, Meeks appears to be putting in the hard yards and embracing the rigors of college basketball. And that starts with his body. Meeks is sculpting a new body image for himself. The sophomore big man has dropped nearly 45 pounds in a year.
Last summer, Meeks weighed in at a whopping 315 pounds, but these days he’s checking in at a trim 270.
The drop in weight has allowed Meeks to begin throwing down windmill dunks. In fact, he recently saved his teammates from running wind sprints at the end of practice when he displayed his newfound move to Head coach Roy Williams.
Meeks says his greater explosiveness is not only due to his loss in weight, but his stronger mind as well.
“It’s not easy. I think it’s the mental part. It’s really going out onto the court and being a demand on the inside. I think that’s what I’m trying to do right now,” Meeks says.
Meeks credits determination and more intelligent diet choices for his ability to transform his body and get into prime playing shape.
“Eating right, working out, and being determined. Being a sophomore, I just eat better and am smart with my food choices,” Meeks says.
Even with the excess baggage, Meeks was a big-time performer in high-profile contests as a freshman. He saved his best for last in the Round of 32 NCAA Tournament loss to Iowa State. Meeks posted 15 points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes of play.
However, Meeks only averaged 16 minutes per game for a reason. He struggled to keep pace with Coach Williams’ track-meet offense, often finding himself gasping for air.
But Meeks says his game continues to be taken to the next level this summer with help from former Tar Heels like Sean May.
“Sean May’s just telling me to keep playing hard, defend, make smarter plays on offense, and get farther out from the basket and shoot. I think he’s really been a good influence this summer,” Meeks says.
The off-court issues surrounding the current Tar Heels still rages on. But Meeks says he and his teammates are doing their best to concentrate on what they can control in preparation for next season.
“I don’t think we let it affect us as much as it did when it first started. We have to put that behind us and focus on our season. It’s pretty important to make Coach [Williams] happy and make our fans happy,” Meeks says.
One thing is for sure. A slimmed down Meeks in 2014 promises to bring a smile to the faces of Coach Williams and Tar Heel fans everywhere.