North Carolina

Kennedy Meeks returning to UNC

North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks (3) breaks to the basket for a dunk on a fast break for two of his game high 23 points in the Tar Heels 67-55 victory on January 16, 2015 at the Smith Center.
North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks (3) breaks to the basket for a dunk on a fast break for two of his game high 23 points in the Tar Heels 67-55 victory on January 16, 2015 at the Smith Center. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Less than two weeks after declaring his eligibility for the NBA draft, Kennedy Meeks has decided to return to North Carolina for his senior season.

Meeks took advantage of a new rule that allows college players more of an opportunity to receive feedback about their professional prospects. The rule allows underclassmen to declare their eligibility for the draft, go through part of the pre-draft process, including the NBA draft combine, and return to school as long as they don’t sign with an agent.

Meeks did not receive an invitation to the draft combine, according to an unofficial list ESPN reported. Even so, Meeks still would have been allowed to work out with NBA teams.

“The feedback on what I have to work on so that I can have a great senior year, help my team have a great season and be ready to take that next step is invaluable,” Meeks said in a statement that UNC released Wednesday.

Meeks’ return means that at least two starters from a team that played in the national championship game last month will be back next season. Joel Berry, the rising junior point guard, already announced his return.

Now UNC will wait for Justin Jackson’s decision. Jackson, who would be a junior next season, announced his eligibility for the NBA draft the same time that Meeks did.

Jackson was one of about 70 players who have received invitations to the combine, according to ESPN. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, two UNC seniors, also received invitations.

Kennedy (Meeks) did the right thing in taking the time to see where he stood with the NBA draft at this point in his career.

UNC coach Roy Williams

Jackson has until May 25 to decide whether to remain in the draft. If he returns, the Tar Heels would have back everyone who is eligible to return.

Meeks’ return ensures UNC will be able to maintain a starting lineup with two traditional post players, as has been coach Roy Williams’ preference. Meeks, who has averaged 9.4 points and 6.5 rebounds in his three seasons at UNC, will likely be joined in the starting lineup by Isaiah Hicks, who won the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year award last season.

In a statement, Williams applauded Meeks’ decision to return as well as his decision to go through part of the pre-draft process.

“Kennedy did the right thing in taking the time to see where he stood with the NBA draft at this point in his career, an opportunity we encourage all of our players to take,” Williams said. “If he works hard this summer, he can have a big-time senior season and also help our team reach its goals.”

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