A knee injury sidelined Meeks for nearly a month last season, but he still managed 9.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game — down from 11.4 and 7.3 as a sophomore.
Now, considerably slimmer and more explosive, Meeks is learning how to control his new, more athletic body.
“I think I’m getting a lot better; I think I’m finally getting accustomed to my body,” Meeks said.
Meeks’ summer work ethic did not go unnoticed. Fellow senior Isaiah Hicks, who has guarded Meeks in practice, has had a first-hand view of Meeks’ growth.
Throughout their time at UNC, the two have always been a good matchup. But Meeks is starting to get the better of Hicks.
“A couple years back, me and Kennedy could guard each other,” Hicks said. “But now it seems like I can’t even do anything because he’s so strong right now.
“It really shows in the weight room and stuff, how much work he put in to get that — he can post up wherever he wants.”
By keeping his weight down and his work ethic up, Meeks has earned the praise of teammates and coaches alike. With the season right around the corner, Coach Roy Williams has already seen great improvements in the 6-foot-10 forward.
“He’s done the most difficult work already, and that’s to lose the weight,” Williams said. “And now he’s got to realize who he is. He’s more athletic, he can make moves quickly, he can be more explosive.
“And if he does that and translates it to every day, then I think he really does have some steps he can take.”
Meeks needs to transition quickly for the Tar Heels, who are looking to fill the void left by Brice Johnson — who was 20th nationally last season with 10.4 rebounds per game. Junior guard Joel Berry has seen Meeks embrace the role so far this preseason.
“I can’t describe it, but he has more energy this year than last year,” Berry said. “And I think that’s just because he knows that Brice isn’t there to help him out.”
Johnson was dominant in the paint last year for UNC, leaving big shoes for Meeks to fill. But the senior from Charlotte doesn’t see it as replacing Johnson. He just wants to finish the work his former teammates started four seasons ago.
“For us to fall short only motivated us this summer to work extremely hard, probably the hardest we ever worked since we’ve been here, on and off the court,” Meeks said. “Me personally, I’m just trying to do it for those guys.”