MacKenzie: Meeks Making A Huge Impression
Kennedy Meeks has been intrigued by the Toronto Raptors since his pre-draft workout in May. After an impressive summer league stint with the team where the four-year senior out of UNC averaged 11.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 15.5 minutes in five games, the Raptors let him know the interest was mutual when they announced they had signed him to a contract.
When Meeks first came through Toronto during the pre-draft process, he had a good showing in a workout that he said had been mainly focused on attacking the rim and knocking down the 3-point shot. Like newly signed C.J. Miles, Meeks mentioned the team culture as one of the things that made Toronto stand out from other stops along the way.
“This is definitely a great organization,” he said. “The coaching staff are tremendous and the players are kind and nice and you can tell that they play together for sure.”
That praise grew stronger after his time with the team in Las Vegas, where Jama Mahlalela and Patrick Mutombo served as head coaches of Toronto’s summer league squad. Despite just days practicing together with new teammates, the summer Raptors seemed to be on the same page from the jump.
“I think we definitely did a great job in practice,” Meeks said of the team’s summer league stint. “I think Coach Jama and [Coach] Mutombo definitely got us going. I think they brought the energy first and we followed them right away and that’s all you can ask for. We didn't know each other before this, I think that we really got after it right away and that’s all that matters.”
After following up a 15-point, nine-rebound debut with a 12-point performance in 10 minutes off the bench, Meeks’ work ethic got a shout out from Mutombo in his post-game media availability.
“He works hard,” Mutombo said of Meeks' effort in Vegas. “He pays attention to detail. He’s smart and he has a good feel for the game.”
Despite the team closing out Vegas with two losses, Meeks continued to impress, and stand out. Though Mahlalela and Mutombo would have liked more victories, both acknowledged the purpose of summer league is to serve as a training ground for younger players who don’t normally get as many reps in the regular season. In addition, it allows the team to get a closer look at players like Meeks, who went undrafted in the 2017 NBA draft.
In four seasons with North Carolina, Meeks averaged 10.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 21.3 minutes. He helped the Tar Heels win a national championship in his senior year and ranks fifth all-time in school history for rebounds. His 152 offensive rebounds this past season were the most by a North Carolina player in a single season since the school started recording the stat in 1995-96. He continued his strong season by averaging 12.2 points and 11.5 rebounds in 26.2 minutes per game in the NCAA Tournament, earning All-Final Four honours after a career high-tying 25-point, 14-rebound performance in the semifinals.
Failing to hear his name get called on draft night was disappointing, but Meeks is prepared to do all he can to prove he’s ready for the next level. He’s also happy he’ll be with the Raptors organization for this next step.
“I’m thankful to be in the position I’m in,” Meeks said as the team departed Las Vegas. “I’m with the team that I wanted to be with. Im definitely grateful for that. They’re a great organization. Not saying everybody else isn’t, but it just fits me the right way and I appreciate them.”