Jodie Meeks was a prolific scorer during the dark days of modern Kentucky basketball

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2022

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After representing the United States at FIBA AmeriCup 2022 in Brazil, former UK standout Jodie Meeks has ended his basketball playing career. He’s now going to work as an assistant coach for the Birmingham Squadron, the New Orleans Pelicans’ G League affiliate.

During his NBA career, Meeks averaged 9.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game and shot 37.1 percent 3-point range in 539 regular season games.

Meeks, 35, has not played in the NBA since 2019 but tried to make a comeback last season in the G League after playing in the NBA for 11 years. He played three years with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers from 2012-14 and averaged 11.8 points per game and won an NBA championship with Toronto in 2019.

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Meeks was recruited by Tubby Smith and played his freshman season for him before Smith left and Billy Gillispie arrived for the next two seasons. However, in spite of Gillispie’s antics/shortcomings, Meeks still had one of the best individual seasons in UK basketball history in 2008-09 as a junior before leaving for the NBA.

He scored 854 points in 36 games — second only to the 948 Dan Issel scored during the 1969-70 season — on a team that did not even make the NCAA Tournament.

“We all heard so many stories about Billy’s antics on the court, off the court, at practice. I really don’t know what to believe but I do know the chemistry was not very good and Jodie still went out and had the year he did,” said Oscar Combs, former Cats’ Pause publisher.

Meeks averaged 23.7 points per game and shot 40.63 percent from 3-point range (117 of 288). He still holds the school record for 3-pointers in one season and is one of only four UK players — Jamal Murray (113), Malik Monk (104) and Travis Ford (101) — to make 100 or more in a season.

Meeks had some sensational games during his record-setting season.

— In a season-opening loss to Virginia Military Institute, Meeks had 39 points.

— Two weeks later he scored 37 against Kansas State in Las Vegas and outscored the entire Kansas State team in the first half.

— Three weeks later he came back with a career-high 46 points against Appalachian State in UK’s annual game at Freedom Hall in Louisville and tied Tony Delk’s single game record with nine 3-pointers.

— Two days later he scored 32 points in only 28 minutes against Tennessee State.

— On Jan. 13, 2009, Meeks had a historic game when he poured in 54 points at Tennessee in a 90-72 win. He went 10-for-15 from 3-point range to set the single-game 3-point mark. He was also 14 of 14 at the foul line that game.

— He made the winning 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds to play to beat Florida and then on Valentine’s Day, he had 45 points at Arkansas.

“That 54-point game at Tennessee was so special. He was just spectacular,” Combs said. “To do that in that atmosphere playing for Gillispie was very extraordinary.”

Meeks was a unanimous all-SEC first team selection and second team all-American. He opted to put his name into the draft and leave UK rather than stay and play for new coach John Calipari like teammate Patrick Patterson did.

That 2009-10 loss in the NCAA Elite Eight to West Virginia 73-66 when it went 4-for-32 from 3-point range. That team had John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson.

“If Jodie had come back for another year, I think Calipari probably would have won that championship,” Combs said. “The one thing that team was lacking was 3-point shooting and Jodie could always shoot. That 3-point shooting was the team’s only real weakness all year and if Jodie had been on the team there’s no question they would have won the championship.”

Meeks did make one more appearance in Rupp Arena on May 10, 2014, to receive his degree in business marketing after attending classes in the NBA off-season for five years.