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UNC big man Kennedy Meeks has dropped nearly 45 pounds

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Kennedy Meeks is expected to be a breakout player in 2014-15. (USATSI)

It's a welcomed positive headline for UNC.

A prime, national breakout-player candidate for 2014-15 is Kennedy Meeks. The Carolina big man has potential in a big way (certainly is on NBA scouts' radars), but he's been stymied a bit by his weight problems. But, according to multiple reports, Meeks has taken this offseason to get himself svelte. To a degree.

Meeks has reportedly trimmed 45-ish pounds off his 6-foot-9 frame. That means he's down to around 275; he was hovering near 320 last season. Meeks also said he's targeting to dip even more and get into the 260s. Averaging 7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds last season, Meeks was clearly a talented but inconsistent player. For UNC to be a factor in the ACC next season, he'll have to become a reliable double-double guy.

That means playing upward of 25 minutes per game, which means stamina, which means shedding this weight is vital to producing and playing like an all league-caliber big.

Because James Michael McAdoo left school early (and was not taken in the NBA Draft), a lot of the load will fall on Meeks and junior Brice Johnson, who is a name most college fans don't know but very well could come January.

Via Scout, Meeks' athleticism is improved to the point where he's tossing down windmill dunks in practice. Anyone who watched UNC last year is probably cramping their brain trying to picture Meeks doing such a thing.

If Monday's dunk is any indication, the latter won't be an issue next season.

“I feel better running up and down the court and, of course, I can stay in the games way longer,” Meeks said. “I think I've only sat out of one pickup game this summer, so I think that's a big improvement.”

Meeks has taken a more serious approach in the weight room this offseason to increase his explosiveness and jump with more power. Instead of relying on pump fakes, which often led to defenders establishing position for blocked shots, Meeks's improved burst will allow him to go up strong against taller opponents. His confidence has also received an unexpected boost courtesy of his weight loss.

“For me to know that my weight has gone down has helped me a lot,” Meeks said. “When you're at 315 and you go down to 290, that's still a lot of pressure on you because you still hear people talk about your weight. That's been important to me.”

Carolina's going to be an intriguing team. The best player is Marcus Paige, a point guard, and really a guy at the 1 who could be the best floor general in college hoops by the end of the season.

If Meeks can help, truly, with giving Carolina a low-post option and allow Paige to bloom, then UNC should/could be a step up from last season, when it finished as a No. 6 seed and failed to reach the Sweet 16.

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