UNC Basketball: Why Slimmer Kennedy Meeks Will Bring Back Memories of Sean May

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UNC Basketball: Why Slimmer Kennedy Meeks Will Bring Back Memories of Sean May
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Over the last several months, North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks has made sure he will be able to play more than the sparse 16.3 minutes per game he logged in his freshman campaign. 

It is no secret he has lost some major weight this offseason. CBSSports.com's Matt Norlander has reported Meeks, through tireless conditioning and disciplined dieting, has "dropped nearly 45 pounds" since he arrived on campus a year ago.   

Weighing in at around 275 lbs, the 6'9" post player is no longer the slow-moving plodder of days gone by. He is now a more lively frontcourt player who is primed for what could be a sensational sophomore season. 

In fact, the trimmed-down Meeks is ready to draw comparisons to another Tar Heel wide body from the recent past: Sean May.

May was a three-year (2002-05) star who averaged a career double-double (15.8 PPG; 10 RPG). He led UNC to the 2005 NCAA championship and was selected as the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

May, who stood 6'9" and tipped the scales at close to 270 pounds, knew how to effectively use his massive size to control the blocks on both ends of the court.

Some might say Meeks is not equipped to take on that substantial of a role on this year's Tar Heel team.

After all, his freshman numbers were not remarkable. He averaged an unexceptional 7.6 points and a modest 6.1 rebounds per game.

There is no disputing the fact May put up better freshman stats (11.4 PPG; 8.1 RPG) than Meeks.  

However, if we check out some advanced metrics, Carolina fans can get excited about what could be ahead.

 

Per-40 Minutes Ratings

One way to compare Meeks and May's freshman seasons is to look at how their stats measure up when extended out to 40 minutes of playing time.

By doing this, we can see how their numbers match in relation to the time they played. As you can see, Meeks fares pretty well when you level the court:

May's and Meeks' Freshman Seasons (Per 40 Minutes Ratings)
Player Actual Playing Time Points/40 Rebounds/40 Blocks/40
May 28.0 MPG 16.2 11.6 2.6
Meeks 16.3 MPG 18.6 14.9 1.9

Sports Reference.com

Meeks' scoring and rebounding digits impress when you consider how few minutes he really played.

Meeks played 20 minutes or more in only seven of UNC's 34 games. But when he played at least half of a contest in those seven games, his averages jumped to 13.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

 

Rebounding Percentages

Another way to put May's and Meeks' freshman performances side-by-side is by looking at what percentage of missed shots they gathered while they were on the court.

It does not take long to discover Meeks is a beast on the boards.

May's and Meeks' Freshman Season Rebounding Percentages
Player Off Rebs/game Def Rebs/game Off Reb % Def Reb %
May 2.3 5.8 8.8 22.9
Meeks 2.4 3.7 15.6 24.8

Statsheet.com

Even though he played significantly less time than May, Meeks did a better job on the offensive glass.

As he takes the court as a stronger and more sleek sophomore, don't be surprised if Meeks is one of the ACC's best all-around rebounders.

And, yes, I know Jahlil Okafor will be taking the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

 

Shooting Stats

One final place to judge the merits of May's and Meeks' freshman rides is to see how effective they were at putting the ball in the basket.

More than just simply noticing their scoring averages, looking at a variety of shooting statistics helps us evaluate their skill at knocking down field goals.

May's and Meeks' Freshman Season Shooting Stats
Player FG% True Shooting % FT Rate Offensive Rating
May 47.2 49.2 37 94.6
Meeks 54.8 56 46.2 111.7

Statsheet.com

One of the distinctive features of Meeks' offensive game is that he is an efficient scorer. He doesn't need a ton of touches or attempts to make his mark.

But, as he moves into a primary role in the Tar Heels attack, Meeks will put more points on the board in the Smith Center and everywhere else North Carolina plays this season.

 

Looking Ahead

With Meeks being in much better shape going into the 2014-15 season, he will see more court time and make a bigger impact as a sophomore. 

He will not just maintain his level of production from his freshman season. He will be UNC's next frontcourt double-double dude.

Sean May helped the Heels cut down the nets in St. Louis in 2005. Could a leaner and meaner Kennedy Meeks do the same for Carolina in Indy next April?

There's more than a slim chance.

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