When Kennedy Meeks arrived at North Carolina as a freshman, he weighed close to 300 pounds. Despite his 6-foot-10 frame, Meeks’ weight was a source of concern throughout high school, and his ESPN scouting report made a point to mention his need to “watch his conditioning and weight” as he ventured off to Chapel Hill.
When Meeks finally landed on campus, his first challenge instantly became the most difficult he’d face for years as a Tar Heel. Meeks, along with the rest of his teammates, had to participate in head coach Roy Williams’ preseason conditioning class, called the 12-minute run, which takes place each year on the first day of classes. Per SB Nation, Meeks struggled mightily.
The 12-minute run is the grueling conditioning test Williams annually holds on the first day of classes. It requires players to make seven laps around a quarter-mile track in, you guessed it, 12 minutes. If you don’t pass, you keep running it until you do.
As a freshman, Meeks failed 11 times.
It wasn’t a good omen for Meeks’ young collegiate basketball career, but the big man never stopped training, dropping to 270 pounds as a sophomore before settling in at 260 this past season as a senior, according to SB Nation. Meeks’ dominant rebounding and play below the rim pushed North Carolina to their third national championship under Williams. It was Meeks’ crucial offensive rebound against Oregon in the Final Four that put the Tar Heels in a position to avenge their loss to Villanova in last year’s championship.
Failing a conditioning test 11 times as a freshman would be enough to make some athletes quit. It only made Meeks stronger.