This was the last day Meeks had to decide whether he wanted to return to Kentucky for his senior season after averaging 23.7 points per game to lead the Southeastern Conference as a junior last year or cast his lot with the NBA.
While teammate Patrick Patterson quickly removed his name from the draft list, Meeks worked out for numerous teams and kept seeking information. For weeks it has been clear that his heart was telling him to go to the NBA and now his head is in agreement.
"I want to thank the fans and the city of Lexington. They have been great and I will always be a Kentucky Wildcat," said Meeks in a statement released by UK. "I feel comfortable with my decision and I'm confident in my ability. My family and I talked over the weekend and decided this was the best decision."
Good for him. If he wants to go, he should even if he's not guaranteed to be a first-round selection.
What the 6-4 Meeks has to be thinking is that he likely won't have a senior season statistically to match what he just posted. He had a team-record 54 points at Tennessee, and also had two other games where he scored 45 and 46 points. He was eighth in the country in scoring and made a school-record 117 3-pointers. He shot a SEC best 90.2 percent at the foul line and 40.6 percent from 3-point range.
The logic for returning to UK was that he could improve his ability to create his own shot in new coach John Calipari's dribble-drive offense and raise his NBA stock. However, Meeks could also have feared that with the arrival of talented backcourt players John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and Darnell Dodson that his production might have gone down — and it probably would have. There's also no way for any of his to estimate what the last two years have been like physically and emotionally for Meeks.
Remember he was recruited by then UK coach Tubby Smith out of Norcross, Ga., at a time when not many Division I schools were pursuing him. He liked the father-like figure Smith was. Then Smith left for Minnesota and Billy Gillispie arrived.,p. Meeks was hurt most of his sophomore season, something Gillispie didn't always want to accept. He often pushed Meeks to do more and was frustrated at times when Meeks could play or practice one day and then barely walk the next day. He didn't think Meeks was tough enough. Never mind that Meeks started the season with a hip problem and just after the season ended it was discovered he had a hernia that required surgery.
Last season Meeks was on fire offensively most of the year. Even though Gillispie later denied ever telling Meeks not to shoot so much, the coach was not thrilled at times with Meeks' shot selection. There were several games the second half of the season where Meeks found himself on the bench at odd times when the Cats were obviously struggling for offense on the court.
If Gillispie had returned, Meeks would not have considered staying at Kentucky. No matter what anyone says, that was common knowledge among those closest to Meeks.
Now Meeks was looking at playing for a third coach in four years and once again having to learn a new system. Maybe the system would be better for him, maybe it wouldn't. Maybe he would love Calipari, but maybe something could go wrong like it did with Gillispie.
Meeks is a likable, respectful young man. He's never been in trouble at Kentucky and has never blamed anyone but himself when he didn't have a big game or make a key play. He's been a solid student and I never saw him refuse to sign an autograph for a fan of any age.
But he's always dreamed of playing in the NBA and even though he plays the position — two guard — that the world's most athletic players play, he's ready to be out on his own and see what he can do. Here's hoping he has made the right decision and some team will take him late in the first round or early in round two. Here's hoping a year from now Meeks will have established himself as a capable NBA player without having to go through the turmoil Kelenna Azubuike did before he stuck in the NBA or Joe Crawford is going through now to earn a roster spot.
What won't be a surprise, though, is that Meeks wanted this opportunity and has decided this is the route he wants to go. The signs have been there for weeks and Meeks merely confirmed that Monday.