Kennedy Meeks was on top of the world.
His blocked shot against Gonzaga with less than 30 seconds left in the 2017 national championship game sparked a sequence that sent North Carolina to its sixth NCAA title — and some redemption after falling just short the previous year against Villanova.
For Meeks, that win is similar to his journey to the Charlotte Hornets summer league team.
“Me and Isaiah (former Tar Heels teammate Isaiah Hicks) were talking about it earlier, just how we came back from the year before, and the work that we put in and it’s kind of similar to here,” said Meeks, a 2013 McDonald’s All-American at West Charlotte High School. “You just gotta definitely have a same mentality, putting work and let the rest take care of itself because you don’t want to worry about it. You want to put yourself in the right position in which you want to also focus on a team game.”
Once the celebration settled down, Meeks’ future was up in the air.
The 6-foot-10 center went undrafted in the 2017 NBA draft. The Toronto Raptors signed Meeks for their summer league team and training camp but waived him that October. He was picked up by Raptors 905, Toronto’s G-league affiliate. A year later, Meeks signed with the SeaHorses Mikawa, a Japanese B-League team.
Now, he’s with the Hornets for the summer.
“Growing up watching Charlotte all my life and coming to games, it seems surreal to even be on the summer league team here because you never think of it as a kid,” Meeks said. “You just want to play in the NBA.
Meeks said traveling helped him mature, and it’s because of his physical development and mental growth that he’s ready for the Hornets.
However, it’s the physical development that might shock fans.
Before Meeks arrived at UNC in 2013, he weighed close to 335 pounds. Once he read the scale, he started on one of the hardest journeys — losing weight. By the time he graduated in 2017, Meeks weighed 260 pounds.
Now, he’s down to 247 pounds.
“I can say this is the best shape I’ve been in my whole life,” Meeks said, a smile briefly appearing on his face. “So I’m looking forward to seeing how it translates onto the court.”
At UNC, he was known for his rebounding skills. After the weight loss, Meeks said he improved his rebounding skills and that’s how he hopes to contribute to the Hornets.
“The most important part of the game is rebounding,” Meeks said. “So for me being effective on the boards is something that teams look for. So that’s my job, first and foremost, and let the rest come to me.”
Hornets Summer League Roster
No., Player, Pos., College/Country, Yrs Pro
10, Francis Alonso, G, UNC-Greensboro/Spain, R
7, Dwayne Bacon, F, Florida State, 2
0, Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State, 1
31, Joe Chealey, G, College of Charleston, 1
22, Torin Dorn, G, N.C. State, R
23, Robert Franks, F, Washington State, R
4, Devonte Graham, G, Kansas, 1
24, Isaiah Hicks, C, North Carolina, 2
18, Arnoldas Kulboka, F, Betaland Capo d’Orlando (Italy)/ Lithuania, R
55, J.P. Macura, G, Xavier, 1
21, Greg Malinowski, G, Georgetown, R
11, Cody Martin, G, Nevada, R
6, Jalen McDaniels, F, San Diego State, R
33, Kennedy Meeks, C, North Carolina, R
43, Josh Perkins, G, Gonzaga, R
12, Kerwin Roach, G, Texas, R
28, Elijah Thomas, C, Clemson, R
25, PJ Washington Jr., F, Kentucky, R
Hornets Summer League Schedule
At Las Vegas
July 5: Golden State Warriors, 9 p.m., NBATV
July 7: San Antonio Spurs, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2
July 8: China, 11 p.m., ESPNU
July 10: Chicago Bulls, 5 p.m., NBATV
Game 5: TBD