All-SEC. All-American. One of the great jump shooters in UK history.
Soon, you can add “graduate” to Jodie Meeks’ resume.
The former Wildcat guard is back in Lexington, back in class at UK, finishing up his degree.
The marketing major just completed his second season in the NBA, his first full season with the Philadelphia 76ers, where in mid-season, he became a starter and averaged more than 10 points per game.
In 2009, Meeks declared for the NBA Draft, but said he’d go back to school if he wasn’t a first-rounder. Meeks was selected 41st overall, a second-round pick. Milwaukee offered Meeks a guaranteed contract, nearly unheard of in the NBA, so Meeks left school.
Now, he’s back.
“My mom and dad have their degree in business, so I definitely want to get my degree,” Meeks said on Thursday. “ I’m so close, so why not finish.”
He’s taking one class – economics and statistics – and will be just 12 hours short of his degree. Like jumping to the NBA, going back to school has been an adjustment.
“You’re rusty, sometimes, just like in sports you’re rusty. Once you get in there, and once you get going, you comprehend stuff,” Meeks said.
Meeks left UK just as it was announcing a coaching change. Billy Gillispie was fired and John Calipari was on his way to re-energize the UK program. Many Big Blue faithful wanted Meeks to stay.
“People wanted me to stay for a chance at a national championship. I loved my time here, but it was time for me to do what was best for me,” Meeks said.
In hindsight, does he ever think about “what if?”
“I saw what he (Calipari) had done at UMass and Memphis. I knew he was going to bring in some great players,” Meeks said. “ I knew he was going to bring in a great coaching staff. It was a hard decision. Coming back, we would’ve had a great team.”
Still, Meeks finds time to watch the Wildcats and has been very impressed with what Calipari has done.
“It’s good to brag. We have Marreese Spates, who went to Florida. We went to the Final Four, so I have bragging rights,” he said.
Meeks thinks he’s found a home in Philadelphia. After not playing much in Milwaukee, then being traded to the 76ers, Meeks began to wonder about his NBA role. That changed when he made his first start in Atlanta.
“I knew they liked me a lot, but they really hadn’t seen all I can do,” he said. “I wanted to come out and show what I can do, just like I did my three years here. Work my way all the way to the top. I think I’ve done that so far. I just have to maintain that. You have to work that much harder.”
So far, so good. Meeks says his coach, Doug Collins, is a players coach.
“Coach Collins is a great coach, because he lets you do what you do best in that offense. He doesn’t put you in a position to fail,” he said. “I’ve been a shooter, coming off screens and he puts me in a position to really succeed.”
Meeks admits making the move from Kentucky to life in the NBA was difficult.
“It was a big adjustment. Coming from college, where I could shoot it anytime I wanted to, to having to be efficient, was hard. Not only that, just getting an opportunity. A lot of people have talent in the NBA but don’t necessarily get the right for them. I was fortunate to go to Philadelphia and get the right fit,” Meeks said.
First “Shooting Camp”
Meeks will return to Lexington to host the first Jodie Meeks Shooting Camp. The camp will be held at the Kentucky Basketball Academy, from June 20-23.
Meeks said he will be giving instructions during the camp and expects several former UK players to assist. Meeks said he’s already heard from Rajon Rondo, who will help with the Shooting Camp.
Anyone interested in attending should call the KBA.
There has been much discussion about the trash talking that went on before, during and after the Kentucky win over Tennessee, during which Meeks broke Dan Issel’s school record with 54 points.
Prior to the game, Tennessee guard Bobby Maze said the Vols were like a Ferrari, while Kentucky was like a Range Rover.
At one point late in the game, Meeks was at the free throw line and could be seen talking to Maze. What was said?
“I told him, ‘That’s 50!’” Meeks admitted.
You’re Outta Here
Meeks didn’t want to discuss his relationship or his time playing under Billy Gillispie. Instead, Meeks said he chooses to take the high road and not talk about the two years.
Meeks was pressed on one Gillispie question.
It’s been widely rumored that Gillispie loved to kick players out of practice, when the coach felt like players weren’t giving it their all. So how many times did Meeks get the heave-ho?
“Five or six times,” Meeks said with laugh.