Kennedy Meeks heard the criticism. He heard what Brice Johnson, his North Carolina teammate, had to say after the Tar Heels' 83-67 victory on Thursday against Florida Gulf Coast.
This was Johnson on Thursday night, releasing some frustration about Meeks:
“There were a couple plays where he just didn't jump. He was right there under the basket, all the had to do was jump a little bit. It's kind of frustrating, because you want to be able to make those easy ones like that … you got to be able to convert those.”
And this was Meeks on Friday, responding to Johnson's comments:
“Yeah. I mean, it’s the truth.”
These haven't been great times for Meeks, the junior forward. After finishing the regular season with a pair of double-digit scoring games against Syracuse (10 points) and Duke (12), he scored 15 points, total, in UNC's three ACC tournament games.
And then came the game against Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday night. Meeks missed seven of his nine attempts from the field, finished with four points and played 11 minutes. He appeared to play with a lack of energy and he clearly lacked explosiveness.
So what happened? Was Meeks not feeling well? Were his knees bothering him? Is he not fully healthy? He spoke on Friday, the day before UNC's game against Providence in the second round of the NCAA tournament, about what has been going on, and about the criticism of his leaping ability.
“I'm in a position now where none of that matters, what people have to say about it,” Meeks said. “It is what it is. Not to blame it on my injury or anything, but in the beginning of the season I was jumping a lot higher than what I am now.
“Which is unfortunate but (on Saturday) I've got to take advantage of what I can take advantage of and that's shooting the ball quick, making quick moves and either get fouled or make a shot.”
Meeks missed seven games earlier this season with a bruised bone in his left knee. It was an injury that bothered him at the start of the season, before he sat out those games, and it's something he's still dealing with now, though he said his knees are “close” to full strength.
“I still feel a little discomfort but that's what it is with my injury,” he said. “I'm fine right now, though.
“I won't complain. But like I said before, my main focus tomorrow, just from talking to my teammates and all those things is to jump and just keep jumping and keep jumping and make those quick moves and hopefully it'll go in.”