This is the fifth and final installment of a position-by-position look at the Tar Heels.
Every other starting position might be claimed before coach Roy Williams names his starter at center. Freshman Kennedy Meeks, sophomore Joel James and junior Desmond Hubert are all in the mix and -- if there’s anything to be taken from Williams’ preseason lineup experiments -- he’s even used Jackson Simmons with the first five.
“Nobody has stepped up and taken it yet,” Williams said last week, adding that he didn’t anticipate naming a starter anytime soon. “That’s going to be not just a couple of days; it’ll be a couple of weeks, maybe even longer.”
Williams’ dilemma? He’s looking for someone who can be the consistent offensive threat inside to keep opponents honest.
“Kennedy, Joel and Desmond, if we throw the ball to them inside, they need to be able to convert,” Williams said. “We’ve spent a great deal of our time in preseason and we’ll continue to do that, too.”
Hubert is limited offensively, although he does give the Heels their best shot-blocking presence inside. He appeared in every game last season and led the team with 30 blocks, which nearly matched his total of 41 points scored.
James is still very much a work in progress. Williams said he had a good offseason, particularly in shedding some pounds and building his stamina. Oh, and his game improved, too.
“He played, very, very well. All the pros were talking about Joel and the nice things he was doing,” Williams said. “Now, he’s got to do it with this team. If he does it with this team, I’ll be as happy as all get out.”
Meeks could be that reliable scorer in the paint. He’s the most gifted offensively of the bunch, but he’s also the least experienced. Aside from questions about his conditioning – despite losing nearly 40 pounds to weigh in around 280 – there’s still a question if can he run in the offense.
“You’ve got to be able to carry it from the practice court to the game,” Williams said. “You’ve got to be able to carry instruction from the bench to the court. Every freshman has got some problems with that right now.”
Meeks has no problem with making outlet passes, though, which became a theme whenever Williams discusses his skill set. And in an offense that wants to run, that, too, could give him an advantage over James and Hubert. But Williams isn’t crowning anyone the starter just yet.
“It remains to be seen,” Williams said. “The big guys have to show that they can do more than last year. If one of them steps forward, then that will be great. But I do think I want a more balanced, inside scoring and outside scoring [team].”
Kennedy Meeks: 6-9, 281, Fr.
Joel James: 6-10, 280, So., 2.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 51.7 FG percent
Desmond Hubert: 6-10, 225, Jr., 1.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 30 blks, 54.3 FG percent
Jackson Simmons: 6-7, 225, Jr., 1.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 65.8 FG percent