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Posts from Monday, June 15

Darius Miller, UK's leading 3-point returnee, hit 18 treys last season.

Darius Miller, UK's leading 3-point returnee, hit 18 treys last season.

Door isn't completely closed on Meeks' eligibility

Posted at 5:41 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

This probably doesn’t change the fact that Jodie Meeks is as good as gone, but there is the slightest glimmer of hope that Meeks could still return to UK.

Let me explain:

Just because Meeks has decided to stay in the draft doesn’t mean he can’t still return to school. The deciding factor is whether Meeks decides to sign with an agent. Once he signs, you can officially say farewell to Meeks.

Meeks told the UK Athletics office today that he hasn’t signed with an agent yet and doesn’t know if he will before the June 25 draft.

Let’s say he doesn’t. The NBA Draft rolls around and somehow, although we shouldn’t hope for this to happen, Meeks  slides through both the first and second rounds and inexplicably goes undrafted. If he decides he doesn’t want to play overseas, doesn’t sign as an undrafted free agent and still hasn’t signed with an agent, there is nothing stopping him from returning to school as long as there is still an open scholarship awaiting him. Think Randolph Morris a few years back.

Now, let me stress how big of an “if” that scenario really is. The chances of Meeks not signing with an agent AND going undrafted are miniscule at best. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb (well, not really, but you can bash me later if it does happen) and say that it’s not going to happen. It’s as likely as Tiger Woods missing the cut at this week’s U.S. Open. I'd say there is about a 95 percent chance that Meeks is as good as gone.

So while the possibility is there, I wouldn’t hold out hope. Monday’s announcement was in all probability the last we’ve heard of Jodie Meeks at UK.

Quick note: I’ve had several people tell me that “Randolph Morris loophole” was no longer in play – that after his decision today, he can no longer return. Not true. I have already checked with the UK compliance office who assured me that he could still return and regain his college eligibility contingent upon certain circumstances, as I outlined above. As I said before, the chances of that happening are extremely rare (you can bet the NCAA would take a hard look at Meeks before awarding him an extra year if that situation were to shake out) but the door isn’t completely closed. I just wouldn’t expect it to open.


Departure of Meeks creates glaring shooting uncertainties

Posted at 3:57 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

It’s been a few hours since Jodie Meeks has made the announcement. I hope the news has sunk in for most of you.

If it has, let’s look ahead to the most glaring problem UK will face now that Meeks is gone: Where will the 3-pointers come from?

Without Meeks, the Cats have zero proven 3-point threats. UK made 202 attempts beyond the line last season, but 117 came from the guard from Norcross, Ga. The other 85?

They came from 11 different players, only four of which will likely be on scholarship in the fall. Of those players – Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson – only two have made more than six (Miller with 18; Liggins with 12). In all, UK has 29 3-pointers returning in the form of scholarship players, or 14.4 percent to be exact.

That’s scary when you consider this fact: only one of the previous 10 NCAA championship teams – Syracuse in 2003 – hit less than 200 3-pointers in its championship season (credit to Brett Dawson of the Louisville Courier-Journal for that nugget).

So who will take over the reins on the perimeter for the Cats next season? In terms of returnees and experience, the only logical choice seems to be Darius Miller, who hit a whopping 18 bombs last season (I’m a fan of Miller, but he’s not the 3-point threat you want running the show).

Miller, although a favorite to win a starting position at either small forward or shooting guard, isn’t even the best pure shooter at his position. That distinction will likely go to Darnell Dodson or Jon Hood, who I think are suddenly the X-factors to UK’s success next year.

You can have all the post players you want – UK has three of the best in Patrick Patterson, DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton – and two pure scorers – two more checks in John Wall and Eric Bledsoe – but if you don’t have a perimeter shooter to keep defenses honest and open things up, none of those will work nearly as well.

That’s why it’s so important for UK to find a pure shooter over the next few months. I think Dodson and Hood are the obvious choices.

Hood earned a reputation as a prolific shooter in high school (50 percent from the field; 30 percent from behind the arc) and could find himself in a perfect fit now that Meeks is going. Dodson is the most interesting player of the two. He’s come in as the relative unknown in the six-man recruiting class, but I’ve been told he’s the most underrated of the six and has the sweetest shooting stroke (34.3 percent from behind the arc) of anyone currently still on the team.

Will Dodson be the answer? Will Hood? Or will it be somebody else? That has immediately become the most glaring issue on this UK team.

They’re capable of shooting the ball, but they’ve never done it on this stage. In a sense, it’s a microcosm of the current outlook of the Cats. They’re talented, but they’re unproven.

Now that Meeks is gone, somebody will have to step up and prove they can take over the reins.


Afternoon tidbits: Johnson selected to USA national team

Posted at 3:13 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Mad props to UK shortstop Molly Johnson, who was selected to the USA Softball Japan Cup Team on Monday.

I can’t stress to you how big of an accomplishment it is for Johnson and the UK softball program to earn this honor. Johnson will be playing with the best of the best, in players like Jennie Finch, Cat Osterman Lauren Lappin and Natasha Watley.

Shortstop Molly Johnson was selected to the USA Softball Japan Cup Team on Monday.

If you’re looking for a comparison of significance, making an MLB team doesn’t even compare to making the U.S. national team. There are 30 MLB teams, each made up of their own 40-man rosters. The USA National Team was made up of three different rosters. Which one is harder to make? The writing is on the wall.

Johnson was one of 16 players selected to the Japan Cup, which will compete in Sendai, Japan, on July 31-Aug. 2.

I actually just got off the phone with Johnson to talk about the selection and her experience with the selection camp. I’m going to hold off posting that until Tuesday morning (don’t want the Meeks decision to overshadow what is a prestigious honor), so keep an eye out for that. For more details on the news part of the selection, click the link above.

In other news, here is a pretty good read on former UK keeper Andy Gruenebaum, who has led the Columbus Crew to an eight-game unbeaten streak.  

Also, we’ll have an announcement on Tuesday regarding the blog and some live chats, so be sure to click back Tuesday for that.

I’ll have another Meeks post here in a little bit.


UK signee named Kentucky’s Mr. Baseball

Posted at 2:15 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Kentucky signee and Covington Catholic senior catcher Luke Maile has been named Kentucky’s Mr. Baseball, awarded to the top baseball player in the state.

Maile, who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 43rd round of the MLB Draft last week, hit an astonishing .514 to go along with 55 RBI last season for the Colonels. He also hits 12 home runs and scored 56 runs en route to being named the Ninth Region Player of the Year.

No word yet on whether Maile will come to UK or make the jump to the pros.


Little making a big push for roster spot

Posted at 1:35 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Got another story from the Tennessean. This one comes from David Climer, who writes that Rafael Little is making a serious push for time in the Tennessee Titans backfield.

Good to hear from Little. Because of a knee injury that sidelined him during the 2008 season, Little has become a relative unknown in the NFL until now. After some impressive non-contact workouts last month, Little is making a case for a roster spot.


Three underlying factors to consider

Posted at 12:32 p.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

The full Jodie Meeks news release is on the homepage, but let me break down the three most important factors in this earth-shattering news:

All-American Jodie Meeks has decided to forego his senior season and remain in the NBA Draft.

  1. UK is going to be just fine without Jodie Meeks. Maybe the expectations simmer just a bit (that might not be a bad thing), but if there was ever a year UK could cushion a blow like this, this was the year. Our minds easily wandered when we thought of Meeks playing alongside John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Patrick Patterson, but the fact of the matter is that all of those pieces but one will still be back. UK will still be a legitimate top-15 or top-20 team without him and it will still have one of the best coaches – if not the best – in the nation. The talent on UK’s roster is still downright jaw-dropping, so stop, take a breath and get back on the bandwagon (I heard thousands of you drop off it when the announcement came out). Obviously it’s not great news from a UK perspective, but it’s not terrible news either. In fact, it’s a good thing – it’s a great thing. Jodie is taking the next step in his life, which leads me to the second and most important of the three factors.
  2. The most important of all three factors: UK fans should all get behind Jodie Meeks. Every single one of them. Whether you agree with the decision or not, Meeks did what he thought was best. In the end, he had to look out for his well being, and quite frankly, leaving now was apparently in his best interest. As potentially good as next season could have been for Meeks, it was hard for his draft stock to rise any higher. Next year’s draft class was expected to be stacked, which could have actually bumped him out of the draft all together. With that alone, you can’t blame the guy for going. I was informed he didn’t receive the coveted first-round promise he was seeking, but I was also told that he was informed by multiple professional players that those guarantees mean nothing. They basically told him that if his heart was in the NBA and he felt he could succeed then he should go. Put yourself in his position. What would you have done? While it’s easy for us to criticize a kid’s decision with biased arguments, we would have all likely came to the same decision if we were in his shoes.
  3. Jodie Meeks is going to succeed at the next level. He has the skills and the competitive desire to make it in the pros if he’s given a chance. If that means he has to wait until the second round and prove himself in the NBA summer league, so be it. As the former coach said multiple times last season, there is no kid that works harder than Meeks. While some scouts are easy to write off the 6-foot-4 guard, remember that this is the same guy that went from basically an unknown to Kentucky’s record holder for most points in a single game. If he brings that same desire to the next level, he’ll make it. And let’s not forget that Meeks actually lit it up at the NBA Combine and workouts. While some analysts said he didn’t do anything to separate himself, he absolutely stroked the ball at most of his workouts. In the end, he’ll likely go on to a successful career like those of UK’s past. UK fans will miss Jodie Meeks, but I think I speak for everybody when I say good luck, Jodie, we wish you the best.


Meeks staying in draft

Posted at 11:42 a.m. EDT - Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

Unfortunately the rumors are true – we’ve seen the last of Jodie Meeks at Kentucky.

Just minutes ago, UK confirmed that the All-American has decided to forego his senior season and keep his name in the NBA Draft. It effectively ends one of the most successful careers in UK basketball.

More to come.


Passing the time

Posted at 10:53 a.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

While we wait on the Jodie Meeks news (by the way, many people now believing it will come down to the last minute), I thought I’d pass along another story on Jeremy Jarmon. Enjoy. And be patient. We could be here until 4:59 p.m. until we hear anything on Jodie.


Morning coffee

Posted at 10:11 a.m. EDT – Eric Lindsey, UK Media Relations

The only story that matters today: While Jodie Meeks isn’t under the title of “UK story of the day,” he is without a doubt the story on every UK fan’s mind today.

One seemingly simple decision (but one with great ramifications for both parties) could determine whether UK is a legitimate top two- or three-team next year or a top-20 team. In case you’ve lived under a rock for the past several weeks, today (June 15) is the final day for players to withdraw from the NBA Draft. Meeks and others have until 5 p.m. EDT Monday to make a final decision.

What will he do? Nobody still knows as of this point (other than maybe Meeks and his family), but we’ll have the decision as soon as it happens on here and on our Twitter account. As if you weren’t already going to be glued to the message boards and blogs today, stay tuned.

UK not-so-story of the day: Meeks’ decision is pretty much overshadowing everything right now, but I wanted to briefly touch on a story in Sunday’s Lexington Herald-Leader.

Chip Cosby wrote Sunday that 16 football freshmen have enrolled in summer school and began working out last week. That, of course, includes UK’s two highly touted quarterbacks, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski. Team workouts began last week, where Newton and Mossakowski participated in their first pass skeleton (7-on-7) drills, according to Cosby.

While Mike Hartline is listed as the opening day starter heading into summer camp, there has been much speculation that one of the talented freshmen could uproot Hartline’s footing as the starter. If one of them is going to do so, it’ll start right here in the summer.

SEC story of the day: I promise I don’t have a man-crush on Devan Downey, but once again he’s made the Southeastern Conference story of the day. The speedy guard finally ended his NBA Draft drama on Sunday by announcing that he is returning to South Carolina for his senior season. His decision comes just days after Dominique Archie announced he was returning to school.

While Downey wasn’t even expected to get drafted, there is no overstating the significance of his return. South Carolina, the defending SEC East co-champions, will be squarely in the mix next season to repeat. Kentucky will have the most talent, but South Carolina will have the senior leaders and experience capable of shocking some more people next season.

National story of the day: The NBA Finals were an unfortunate dud to an otherwise exciting playoffs, but the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic on Sunday, capturing the franchise’s 15th title.

Several things of significant note. First of all, Kobe Bryant has launched his name among the game’s all-time greats as he won his fourth career championship, this one without Shaq no less. I’m not a fan of Kobe’s, but there is no arguing that he’s one of the best to ever play the game. His jumper is as smooth as it is deadly.

Secondly, Phil Jackson has now done what no man has ever done before – win 10 NBA titles. He surpassed Red Auerbach on the all-time championship list by putting a ring on every single finger. People will always say that he did it with three of the best players of all-time – Michael Jordan, Kobe and Shaq – but that doesn’t make his titles any less momentous.

Were those players a gargantuan advantage? Sure. But that doesn’t mean Jackson didn’t play a huge role in shaping each of those players into the NBA legends they’ve become. Since I don’t cover the NBA and have no factual information to what Jackson really does on the bench, I couldn’t honestly tell you how great of an Xs and Os coach he really is.

But the credentials speak for themselves. He’s orchestrated what no man has ever done before, and for that, he deserves to be mentioned as the greatest coach to ever coach the game.