In the final seconds of a scrimmage at the NBA Draft Combine on Friday, a loose ball bounced toward North Carolina coach Roy Williams, who was sitting in a chair on the baseline. Williams grabbed the ball and tossed it to former Tar Heels big man Kennedy Meeks with a smile.
There were smiles all around for the duo as Meeks went for 19 points and 16 rebounds in his team’s win in front of all 30 NBA teams, including decision-makers like Phil Jackson of the Knicks and Larry Bird of the Pacers.
“It’s always good seeing Coach,” Meeks said at Quest Multisport Complex. “Being around him is always a pleasure. He makes you laugh, jokes around, he tells you what you need to work on, so it’s always good to be around him.”
Meeks measured 6-10 1/4 with shoes with a wingspan of 7-1. He met only with the San Antonio Spurs at the combine, but expects to have some workouts coming up.
“I didn’t have an agent until I got here, so it was kind of a late process,” he said of signing with agent Charles Briscoe.
Meeks, who averaged 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds for the NCAA champions, is not currently projected to be drafted, per DraftExpress.com, but Williams believes he can help an NBA team.
“Well, first of all I think he’s a rebounder,” Williams said. “I’ve told Kennedy many times, you can pass too much, you can dribble too much, I’ve never seen anybody rebound too much. He has great hands, I think he understands the game. He’s a good teammate, so I think he can play on an NBA team. He’s just gotta get a chance.”
The NBA trend has evolved more toward big men who can shoot from deep and space the floor, while Meeks is more of a traditional low-post big man.
“They are fringe NBA players,” ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla said of Meeks and teammate Isaiah Hicks. “Their size and athleticism and the way the NBA is played nowadays with the speed of the game, it doesn’t cater to their strengths. They’re both below-the-rim, undersized big men, each capable of making a roster, but what we would call a fringe roster guy.”
Williams conceded that Meeks wasn’t the type of big man who can necessarily space the floor.
“No, but his teams win, his teams win,” Williams said with a smile.
Indeed, Meeks, along with Justin Jackson and Hicks (and this year’s potential one-and-done Tony Bradley), helped lead the Tar Heels to back-to-back NCAA title games the last two seasons, including this year’s win over Gonzaga in Glendale, Ariz.
“I’m going to do my best to do whatever I can to get as high (in the draft) as possible,” Meeks said.