GLENDALE, Ariz. – When North Carolina coach Roy Williams visited Kennedy Meeks for an in-home recruiting visit, he got more than he bargained for.
“When I went into the home,” Williams recalled ahead of Monday’s national championship game against Gonzaga, “there were 18 people.”
That’s up for dispute.
“There were 20,” said Meeks’ uncle, David Richmond, “he missed two.”
Family is obviously important to Meeks, the Tar Heels senior forward, and leading rebounder.
It’s one reason he chose Chapel Hill.
“Kennedy is a family person,” his aunt, Brenda Richmond said. “That’s number one.”
And it’s easy to see why.
The Meeks and Richmond families have invaded Phoenix, looking to support the pride of West Charlotte.
“I’m very proud of Kennedy,” his mother, Nakhia Meeks. “He’s exceled in a lot of different ways.”
In Saturday’s semifinal win over Oregon, Meeks had the game-clinching offensive rebound. He became just the fifth player in history to record 25 points and 14 rebounds in a Final Four game, joining legendary names like Larry Bird, Danny Manning, Ed O’Bannon and Carmelo Anthony.
It’s a truly remarkable statistic, even more remarkable for a player who’s lost about 60 pounds since arriving on campus.
Got in the gymnasium, worked out with his friends, worked out with the coaches,” said David Richmond. “He always knew in his mind where he needed to be.”
Added Williams: “I have a great deal of respect for how hard he worked when he got there. That has to be extremely difficult.”
Meeks’ fun-loving personality has meshed with the Tar Heels family.
“He’s just a loveable big teddy bear,” Williams said.
His personality, and his 6-foot-10, 260-pound frame, are hard to miss now when he comes back to Charlotte.
Not only has he transformed his body, he can transform the way young children in his neighborhood dream.
If Kennedy can do it, so can I.
“Kids always come up to him,” said cousin Danielle Richmond. “He loves talking to kids.”
“Kennedy is a great role model,” said sister Lasharyia Meeks. “They look up to him.”
Meeks has already done enough for local kids to look up to, and most importantly, he’ll receive his degree from UNC this May.
“He is,” his mother Nakhia Meeks said, “just extraordinary.”