Meeks on path to achieve big things

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Kennedy Meeks (Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte) is a different player in the postseason. Meeks, one of the top junior centers in the country, is an interesting prospect from an evaluation standpoint. However, I’m going to make the case for him that he’s got star power.

Meeks has elite hands, elite feet, an elite scoring touch and most of all, an elite mind. His feel for the game is innate. His outlet passes deft and precise. He has all the tools to be a standout in college and beyond. Yet, he hasn’t had everyone push all in on him.

Every year there are guys in each class that for whatever reason are difficult to wrap your mind around. For some, Meeks is that guy. Numerous coaches I’ve spoken with, after seeing him this season, came away concerned about his weight and worried about his motor. Admittedly, after watching him in December, the slightest doubt crept into my mind. After Tuesday, that doubt no longer exists for me and here’s why.

Meeks, all 6-foot-9 and 280 pounds of him, is like an open book. Once I realized some pertinent traits of his, gauging who he is and where he’s going are easier to see.

First and foremost, because of his aunt Brenda Richmond, academics are priority No. 1. Meeks recent induction into the national honor society was as celebrated by the family as his 20-point, 13-rebound effort on Tuesday. I’ve been around enough to know when academics are paid lip service. With Meeks, academics are valued more than the basketball pieces by the adults in his life. They say it, mean it and live it.

After the academics comes the basketball and evaluating Meeks takes time and vision. Time is needed to see him on a continuum with a focus on his postseason games. Meeks admittedly is a slow starter to the season as he works himself into shape. Vision is required to understand where he’s going and how a college-level strength and conditioning program will get him there.

The mistake would be to evaluate him in a vacuum. To really get a grasp for him you would need to pull out the state championship game tape of a year ago. He dominated in the biggest game of his life. A year earlier, he was a freshman sitting on the end of the bench getting spot minutes. This season, West Charlotte will go as far as Meeks takes them and that’ll be to the state title provided he receives the requisite touches.

Back to the evaluation.

The trick here will be to make sure you have a long-term evaluation of him. Throw out the high, toss out the low and take the average knowing that there are natural tools like soft hands, good feet, a finisher’s touch and the passing instincts from the post that cannot be replicated. These are real basketball skills and they are locked into his DNA. However, one-time evaluations don’t always reveal the entire package.

The second part of the evaluation needs to be made by your school’s strength and conditioning coach. If I’m Meeks, I don’t go to any school that doesn’t have a track record or at least a success story of changing a player’s body. A strength and conditioning coach that is good at his job should be able to mold him into a fixture in the post.

And now there’s Meeks’ part of the equation. He’s got a body that is fleshy; always has been. He’s cast in the mold of Sean May. Once he leaves Charlotte and if he checks himself into the program that his school is willing to put him through, there are real strides to be made. He doesn’t need a transformation, only a chiseling down.

The big man upstairs didn’t build guys the size of Meeks with the intention of turning them into professors or engineers (though he’s certainly intelligent enough to do so). Meeks was constructed and given the body he has to play basketball, specifically to play in the paint. The unspoken expectation for him was to play basketball for a long time. Meeks has the natural talent and ability to make that happen. The next phase is conditioning and once he attacks that, the accolades and improvements are set to fall in line naturally.

To much is given, much is expected. Meeks has a package of skills that very few kids his size – in this country – can fall back on. It’s up to him to maximize them. Meeks sounds like he’s picking up on his upside. He’s been eating right and working harder in practice. He hopes to play in two more games this season and has the regional final on Saturday.

I wondered, what did he think would happen when (not if) he loses 25 pounds? “It’s going to be crazy,” Meeks said. “After the season is over I’m going straight to the track and going to work in the weight room.”

Meeks on recruiting

Georgetown’s been the most consistent school recruiting Meeks. “They sent me a message today, telling me to work hard and get rebounds,” Meeks said.

North Carolina is on his mind and NC State coach Mark Gottfried attended Tuesday’s game. The Heels have not offered; NC State has and other programs are interested.