UNC Basketball

UNC Basketball: Will Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks Be a Dominant Frontcourt Duo?

CHAPEL HILL, NC - DECEMBER 14:  Brice Johnson #11 and Kennedy Meeks #3 of the North Carolina Tar Heels force a turnover by Dakari Johnson #44 of the Kentucky Wildcats during play at the Dean Smith Center on December 14, 2013 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Doug BrodessCorrespondent IMay 29, 2014

Some of North Carolina's best teams of all time have featured punishing play from their power forwards and centers.

UNC won it all in 1982 with a squad that rolled out James Worthy and Sam Perkins

Carolina cut down the nets in 2005 with Sean May leading the way. The 2009 title was brought back to Chapel Hill largely because of Tyler Hansbrough's fantastic work down low.

At different times last season, junior Brice Johnson and sophomore Kennedy Meeks showed flashes of future Tar Heel glory.

Johnson tallied 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds (both career highs) in 22 minutes against Richmond. He put up double figures in 19 games while averaging 19.4 minutes per game.

Meeks, in his seventh collegiate game, scored 15 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in 18 minutes against Michigan State in East Lansing. The 6'9" freshman scored 23 points (his career high) in 24 minutes in a road win at Florida State.

Meeks was named to the All-ACC Freshman Team.

With James Michael McAdoo leaving school early for the NBA draft, it is very likely that both Johnson and Meeks will be in Roy Williams' starting five in the 2014-15 season.

What do they need to do to become the Tar Heels' next dominant frontcourt duo?

The following three areas are key in making this happen:

 

Commit to Conditioning

Johnson and Meeks will both benefit greatly from spending their summer months getting physically ready for next season.

Jan 20, 2014; Charlottesville, VA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Kennedy Meeks (3), Tar Heels forward James Michael McAdoo (43), and Tar Heels forward Brice Johnson (11) reach for the ball against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena. M
USA TODAY Sports

Johnson has already put on over 20 pounds since arriving on campus as a freshman. Even though his game is based on his freakish athleticism, Johnson needs to continue to add more muscle and bulk so that he can battle on the boards.

Meeks, on the other hand, needs to drop pounds and build more explosiveness. According to Keeping it Heel's Dwight Moore II, Meeks lost 30 pounds before his freshman year began.

If he is going to go to war against Duke's incoming freshman center, Jahlil Okafor, and the rest of the ACC bigs, Meeks needs to be in much better shape.

 

Focus on Defense

Johnson and Meeks are skilled offensive players. They both are adept at getting to the offensive glass and turning those boards into scoring opportunities.

They both need to make strides on the defensive end of the court, becoming rim protectors and keepers of the lane.

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Even though Johnson led last year's team in blocks (43), he has to improve his every-possession defense. Opponents have, all too often, been able to post him up and get good looks in the paint.

Also, Johnson must cut down on his fouls in order to stay on the court. Last season, he averaged 2.8 fouls per game even though he averaged less than 20 minutes of playing time.

Meeks needs to learn to better use his ample frame to his advantage. As last season progressed, his positioning and footwork got better, but he still has much room for improvement.

 

Play every Possession

Johnson and Meeks will be asked to log increased minutes and carry much more critical roles on this coming year's team.

Rather than contributing in short spurts, they need to bring their best every time down court for long stretches.

Last season, both Johnson and Meeks would get lost for minutes at a time. They would be on the court without impacting the game.  

Even if they simply sustain their levels of performance from last year with increased playing time, both Johnson and Meeks could become double-double guys in the 2014-15 season.

That will only become a reality if they keep up their good work for 25-30 minutes per game.

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