Making do without Meeks

jtipton@herald-leader.comJune 30, 2009 

During his appearance on a Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference on Monday, John Calipari acknowledged that losing Jodie Meeks will hurt Kentucky next season.

"No way we can be the shooting team we'd be if he was here," Calipari said.

The new UK coach wished Meeks well.

"You can't hold these kids back," Calipari said. "... At the end of the day, it was a great choice because that's what he truly wanted to do."

Meeks led UK and the SEC in scoring last season with an average of 23.7 points a game. He also set the school record for points in a game by scoring 54 at Tennessee.

Meeks, who would have been a senior next season, was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the NBA Draft last week.

Calipari noted that Meeks' absence will create opportunities for others. He mentioned such players as sophomores Darius Miller and Darnell Dodson.

Calipari also said Meeks' departure made it a "distinct possibility" that two highly regarded freshmen point guards, John Wall and Eric Bledsoe, will play together.

Neither comes billed as a dead-eye perimeter shooter. But of more immediate concern is how the two will mesh. Calipari sounded encouraged.

"The best thing I like is they like each other," he said of Wall and Bledsoe, as well as fellow freshmen DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton. "... They're like four brothers."

But South Carolina Coach (and Lexington native) Darrin Horn noted how a player of Meeks' experience is difficult to replace.

"Obviously, Jodie was a high producer on a very consistent basis," Horn said. "You don't replace that level of experience just with talent. ...

"Experience is so important. Look at any sport on any level. You know what to expect and understand the commitment it takes."

Calipari seeks domes

Calipari spoke of possible neutral site games for Kentucky in future seasons. He noted the consideration given games in domed stadiums in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Atlanta. Plus he talked about neutral-site games in Nashville, Louisville and New York.

Here are the particulars Calipari mentioned:

■ Returning the Indiana series to "neutral sites" of Louisville and Indianapolis.

■ A game against Memphis in Nashville.

■ Games against Ohio State alternating in Louisville and Cincinnati.

■ A game against Kansas in St. Louis.

■ A game against "some of the best teams in the history of the game" in either New York or Atlanta.

To play such a schedule requires a strong roster, Calipari said.

The UK coach suggested that the incoming freshman class will not have any academic problems and will be eligible. He said Kentucky Mr. Basketball Jon Hood and "one other" freshman had yet to complete the paperwork needed to gain freshman eligibility.

"I love the attitude," Calipari said of the freshmen. " 'Let's try to win all the games.' "

Miller update

Calipari expressed hope that sophomore Darius Miller will gain confidence while playing for the U.S. team in the under-19 international competition this summer.

"What I'm hoping, through that experience, is he builds his confidence in his ability to (play in UK's dribble-drive offense)," Calipari said. "That's what I'll be trying to build (next season)."

Calipari saluted Miller's work ethic. The UK coach noted times he's been in the office at 11 p.m. and noticed Miller turning on the lights to begin a workout.

"I had six workouts with Darius," Calipari said. "I was as excited about him as anyone on the team.

"He has a knack for getting the ball in the basket. He's a good athlete. Not a great, great athlete. But a very good athlete. He can shoot the runner. He scores the ball well enough from the perimeter you have to guard him.

"But it's confidence (that must be strengthened)."

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