After dodging several bullets this offseason, the SEC took its second big hit today when Jodie Meeks, Kentucky’s star shooting guard and the league’s top scorer at 23.7 points per game, announced he will remain in the NBA draft.
Meeks was a breakout star a year ago, as Kentucky’s offense nearly ran through his hands on every play. His field-goal percentage was third-best in the conference among guards at 46.3 percent, and he led the SEC from behind the arc at 40.6 percent.
Strangely, this loss doesn’t hurt UK as much as it probably should. John Calipari’s recruiting class in his first year with the Blue was nothing short of epic, and the team returns a massive amount of talent and experience as it is.
As good as Meeks was, he was also a ball-hog. With him gone, incoming freshman point-guard and top-ranked recruit John Wall will be dishing out the ball to a more well-rounded group of teammates like Patrick Patterson, Perry Stevenson, and freshman stars DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, and Daniel Orton.
What this does, however, is force Kentucky’s entire lineup into a front-heavy crew. Kentucky’s only true usable talent in the backcourt will all be underclassmen, and all but one will be freshmen. DeAndre Liggins is the sole returning guard with any real potential, and he managed to shoot just 23.5 percent from three in his freshman season. Both Wall and Bledsoe have perimeter shots listed as a “weakness” by Scout and freshmen Jon Hood and Darnell Dodson both are listed as small forwards whose perimeter games won’t likely be difference-makers in the SEC.
Unless Liggins can turn into the next Meeks—and that’s about as likely as Kentucky fans admitting a national championship shouldn’t be a guarantee—UK is going to be heavily unbalanced next season. For as much hype as this team will get, UK is following the recipe for a quick NCAA exit line-by-line.