DEMAREE: Meeks is the "X" factor

Every once in a great while, a head coach scores on a recruit that goes on to be a great player. A possible Dwayne Wade type, if you will. I know this is high praise for a freshman and a probable reach, however who at the same stage in Wade's career thought he would reach the heights he has? Has Tubby Smith scored on such a player?

When coach Tubby Smith and teammates talk about Jodie Meeks, they do so in glowing terms. Who better to offer an accurate opinion on a player than one that competes against him daily? "From day one, I thought he was a good player," Joe Crawford said. "He's going to be a great player. He is strong."

"Jodie is gong to be an outstanding player here – he is strong and quick," coach Smith added. These are some of his attributes that have been described from time to time. But there are a few more significant things about his game that we have observed.

At one point against Tennessee, he stepped in the passing lane, stole the ball and streaked to the basket on the other end of the court leaving everybody in his dust which says he is very fast with the ball in his hands.

When Meeks is inserted in the game, which has become earlier and earlier as the season has progressed, he is becoming instant offense. And one of the primary reasons for this is he has no fear of shooting the ball. We asked him if he always had that confidence to shoot the ball? He said, yes but coach Smith has helped instill that in him.

No matter the star status of a player coming into college, he is often erratic at the free throw line as a freshman. Apparently not so with Meeks because at one point in the season, he sank 22 straight at the free throw line.

He most likely has endeared himself to Smith because he plays good defense and Smith is a stickler for defense. It would seem that the next hurdle for the freshman is to learn to play against stiff enemy competition because one of the strong suits of his game in getting to the hole as evident of his going to the free throw line so regular. Against Florida, he wasn't able to get to the hole.

Meeks said he had played in front of as many as 10,000 people in the high school state tournament while playing for the Norcross Blue Devils in Georgia. How did it feel playing in front of a record of 24,455 yelling and screaming fans against No. 1 ranked Florida? Meeks said: "I got nervous before the game but once I got into the game I forgot about it. You've just got to focus on the game you are playing."

When did he realize he belonged here? "I realized it when I first got here," he said. "Everybody was excited in August about the upcoming season." How strong is his desire to be a great player? He said, "I think everybody wants to be a great player. It's just a matter of how hard you work. If I listen to my coach, I think I can achieve that goal."

After having observed this year's Norcross team, it's hard to imagine Meeks on that high school team last year but I'm sure that when Meeks' career is over at UK, the fans will have been glad he came their way!

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