#17 Jodie Meeks
Norcross HS, Norcross GA
When we began this series of the Most Impactful Players of the “modern era” how many players did you expect to see who never even made it to the Sweet 16? None probably. But Jodie Meeks isn’t one of the most impactful players because of what he did at UK, but more for what he kept from happening. Meeks was a 3 star recruit out of Georgia and played all 34 games as a freshman averaging 8.8 points per game. He was hurt most of his sophomore year and only played in 11 games during Billy Gillispie’s first season that proved to be one of the most trying since probation. Until the next season, which ended in an NIT and ultimately the firing of Gillispie. But imagine what things would have looked like had Meeks not had one of the most prolific scoring years in UK history.
All Meeks did during his junior year was put up 23.7 points per game with an insane coach, who had lost the team early in the year, and deal with a bad roster save Patterson. Meeks HAD to score in bunches for UK to be able to win at all during the season and any player can tell you how much pressure that puts on someone. Think about how open he was during the season for a minute, other than guarding Patterson, other teams didn’t even attempt to guard anyone other than Meeks. He always had two or three people on him and had to create for himself considering he didn’t have a point guard who could create for him. He had a coach who openly scored him for being, well, good. ”This isn’t the University of Jodie Meeks” is an oft repeated quote in Big Blue land and showed the discord between the team and their coach. How many players expect to hear that after having a great first half? None is the answer.
Even with all of those tribulations he was one of two bright spots for UK that year. He put the team on his back most games and helped Patterson lead the team to 22 wins, and even though it ended up bringing a NIT, he produced some of UK’s most memorable games and moments from an otherwise forgettable season.
Remember the school record, 54 points against Tennessee? It was one of the best shooting performances that anyone has ever seen and one that will probably not be matched in the modern era of NCAA basketball. He hit a school record 10 three pointers during the game and put the team on his back in a way that I have never seen a player do maybe other than Jimmer Fredette. The video of the Tennessee players just putting towels over their head after he hit his 10th three is something I don’t think I will ever forget.
Don’t forget about the shot that he hit against Florida, the off balance three with a man in his face from 6 feet behind the three point line to give UK the three point win at home. This three came after UK fouled Calathas in a major blunder giving them free throws to tie the game with just a few seconds remaining.
To sum up his final year as a Wildcat is this stat: Meeks had 30 or more points 7 times, 40 or more points 3 times and a 54 point game. Those kinds of numbers will likely never be matched in UK history during a single season.
I will leave you with the question I started with: Imagine what would have happened had Meeks not been on that team?