VAUGHT: Meeks confident he's ready to go

The more Jodie Meeks wanted to play last year, the more the pain seemed to bother him. He missed 20 games during Kentucky's basketball season, including the final eight. He played in only 11 games, starting five. Rather than becoming UK's consistent outside shooting threat, he got off only 88 shots all year and averaged 8.8 points per game.

His woes started with a stress fracture in the pelvic area in the preseason. Next came a hip flexor. Finally, it was discovered after the season ended that he had a sports hernia.

"I was probably back feeling 100 percent at the end of the summer. I don't worry any more about how I feel," said Meeks, a junior guard. "I was still having some pain in mid-summer, but was just getting back in shape more than anything.

"I am pretty eager to play. I did miss the whole year. I am just ready to get back and try to win. That is the main thing. Kentucky basketball fans love their basketball and want us to win and we do also. I want to be out there helping us do that again."

Still, Meeks heard the whispers and gossip last year. He heard his toughness questioned when he didn't seem to be able to play through pain. He knows fans, and perhaps even the UK coaches, wondered how he could feel fine one day and then have trouble running for days after that.

"I think people just didn't know what was wrong with me. At first, they (doctors) said it was a hip flexor strain," Meeks said. "But I was in pain all season. For me not to get on TV or tell reporters I was hurt was frustrating. But I tried to keep positive. I prayed a lot.

"I knew they misdiagnosed my injury from the beginning. I knew it was more than that. I was in pain just trying to walk. Then they finally said it was a sports hernia."

Meeks sometimes even wondered what was wrong. He wanted to play, would think he was ready and then the pain would return.

"Some days before a game I would be moving and cutting real good. Some cartilage and scar tissue would heal and then the next day it would flare up after practice and I could not hardly even walk. I know it was hard for people to believe. They would see me practicing, then think I was faking the next day would I couldn't play," Meeks said.

Meeks wouldn't shy away from his teammates on game day even when he knew he couldn't play.

"I wasn't ashamed I couldn't play. They knew I was hurt," Meeks said. "I would go to all the workouts and pregame stuff. I wasn't down. Basketball is a game I love, so I wanted to be around the team no matter what."

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