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Sports

West Charlotte's Kennedy Meeks grows into professional basketball
Team USA center has World Cup aspirations
 
Published Tuesday, November 21, 2017 10:27 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

PHOTO/TROY HULL
West Charlotte High graduate Kennedy Meeks is the youngest player on the USA World Cup team.

Basketball has changed for Kennedy Meeks.


At 22, the West Charlotte High and North Carolina alumnus is the youngest member on the USA World Cup qualifying team roster, but old enough to remembers the original Hornets, Bobcats, and re-branded Hornets.

“I was a Bobcats fan when tickets were $9, something like that,” Meeks said. “We weren’t doing so well, but those guys are a great team. It’s a great organization—a great city. I definitely was a big fan growing up.”


Meeks spent Tuesday practicing on the Hornets practice court with the USA national team, which will try to qualify for the World Cup. The first-round qualifiers include games against Puerto Rico Nov. 23 and Mexico Nov. 26 at the Greensboro Coliseum Fieldhouse. He sees American success depending on their physicality and a strong start.

“Being physical first, setting the tone early, and not letting them hit us in the mouth,” Meeks said. “I’d rather it be the other way around. Attack those guys in transition, and I think we’ll be fine. If we limit our turnovers I think we’ll be in the right position, because those two teams are really physical.”

Since winning the collegiate national championship at North Carolina, the 6-foot-10 center signed with the Toronto Raptors and currently plays for their G League team, Toronto 905. Meeks has played in five games, averaging 11.2 points and 9.4 rebounds over 28.9 minutes.

“Pace of play is the most difficult part,” Meeks said of the transition between college and professional basketball. “There’s a lot of plays being thrown at you at one time. You’ve got to kind of grasp onto it. I think the best option is to ask questions, because coaches pretty much don’t want to be asked questions later when it’s time to play. That’s the biggest adjustment.”

Meeks intends to balance his game by shifting his focus on perimeter efficiency. He has not made a shot from beyond the arc for the Raptors.

“As far as me spreading the floor, and being able to set screens and pop, kind of like I did in high school—kind of getting back toward that kind of style of play, while still knowing that the post is my main and best position,” Meeks said. “I just want to keep working on that, and keep expanding my game as far as shooting threes.”

However, his rebounding efficiency remains just as strong as it was at North Carolina, where his 1,052 place him fifth in school history.


“Normal things—rebounding, trying to work on offensive rebounding to give my team extra possessions,” Meeks said. “Just trying to play hard, and get better at pick and roll defense. That’s one thing that the NBA looks for, and I’ll try to get better each and every game going forward.”

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