“That’s a dunk I could never do,” Meeks said on Wednesday. “I finally got it.”
The rising Charlotte, N.C. sophomore arrived in Chapel Hill last summer weighing 317 pounds. He’s currently hovering in the 270-273 range after nearly 50 pounds of weight loss.
“I would like to get to 265, but 265-270 is my goal,” Meeks said.
The 6-foot-9 center earned ACC All-Freshman Team honors after averaging 7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game last season. Meeks closed the season with 15 points and 13 rebounds in UNC’s 85-83 loss to Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament’s third round.
Inconsistency, however, plagued Meeks’s freshman campaign as standout performances were often met with disappearing acts, in part due to youth and in part due to conditioning.
One comes via experience, while the other is dependent upon work ethic. 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.”
That heightened confidence level was on display during his media interview on Wednesday.
“All I’m missing is a six-pack right now,” Meeks said, smiling.
Of course, it helps when you can showcase your new dunk skills in front of your coaches and teammates in a clutch situation.
According to rising sophomore forward Isaiah Hicks, Meeks connected on his first windmill with only Jackson Simmons, Joel James and Hicks as his witnesses. After telling his other teammates about his dunk, he was unable to replicate the effort the following day in pickup.
On Monday, UNC head coach Roy Williams opened practice by telling his team that 33s would conclude the session unless “somebody shows me this windmill they’ve been talking about.”
Meeks was granted three opportunities, but only needed one.