The knee felt sore, Kennedy Meeks said, and the brace that had fit snugly around it was hanging off now, in a moment of relaxation after North Carolina’s light workout Wednesday at the Staples Center.
Will he play against Wisconsin on Thursday night in an NCAA tournament West Region semifinal? How’d he feel? Was there pain?
The questions kept coming for Meeks, the Tar Heels sophomore forward who suffered a left knee sprain late in victory against Arkansas on Saturday. And he tried to answer without knowing the answer to the most important question of them all: Will he play Thursday.
“I’m fine,” Meeks said, more than once. “Just taking it day by day. It’s still a little sore. Just really got to focus on (Thursday). Can’t really focus on me trying to get out there and hurt my knee or me making it worse.”
Meeks practiced Tuesday, though he didn’t go through the more physical part of practice. He practiced Wednesday but, again, UNC coach Roy Williams lightened his usual workload.
“The big thing now is we’ll have to wait to see if there’s any more swelling or any pain tonight for what little he did this morning,” Williams said. “... If there is swelling or pain tonight we won’t play him. If there’s not, then we’ll probably make the decision during warmups (on Thursday).”
Meeks continues to receive a variety of treatment. He’s stretching, he said, and also receiving massages and taking medicine. There have been exercises in a pool, at UNC before the team left, and at the team’s hotel in Los Angeles.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll get in the pool later today and do the same routine,” he said. “Because it feels a lot better after I get out the pool.”
Meeks, who has started 31 of UNC’s 36 games, is the team’s third-leading scorer.
His presence would be significant for UNC, which is tasked with defending a skilled frontcourt that includes the 7-foot center Frank Kaminsky, a national player of the year candidate. Meeks said he wouldn’t play if he doubted his ability to keep up with Kaminsky, who excels on the perimeter as much as he does inside.
“I won’t play if I don’t feel like I’m able to,” Meeks said. “So I think if I play I should be all right.”