UK Men's Basketball

Patterson, Meeks in elite air

While attending a practice last week, former Kentucky All-American Jack Givens noticed something with Jodie Meeks' shooting.

"He seemed to be thinking a lot about his shot instead of letting it go," Givens said.

When Meeks came over to chat after practice, Givens offered a suggestion.

"Shooters shoot," Givens said. "Shooters don't think."

Call it professional courtesy.

Meeks and Givens are part of a select subgroup in Kentucky basketball: perimeter-shooting partners in some of UK's most prolific scoring duos.

When Meeks and Patrick Patterson each tallied more than 30 points in Monday night's victory over Tennessee State, they became Kentucky's first tandem of 30-point scorers since Rick Robey (30) and Givens (31) did it against Miami (Ohio) on Dec. 10, 1975.

Although there's a long way to go this season and tougher competition lies ahead, Meeks (24.9 ppg) and Patterson (19.0 ppg) are on pace to become Kentucky's third-most prolific scoring tandem.

The centerpiece of UK's two most productive tandems, Dan Issel, watched Meeks buzz Tennessee State for 32 points. Although he didn't know it, Issel saw Givens' advice put to good use.

"Shooting is a lot about confidence," Issel said. "It looks like he's playing with an unbelievable amount of confidence. He expects just about everything to go in."

Meeks, who had made 11 of 33 three-point shots in the five most recent games prior to chatting with Givens, denied that his confidence ever wanes. Nor did he anticipate any confidence boost from 17-for-29 shooting from beyond the arc since Givens advised firing away.

Issel, the program's career scoring leader, combined with Mike Pratt on Kentucky's top scoring tandem. The two averaged 53.2 points in the 1969-70 season. The season before saw Issel and Mike Casey combine for the second-highest two-man average in UK history: 45.7.

Besides the players' abilities to put the ball in the basket, Issel cited Kentucky's 13-13 record during their freshman year.

"Coach (Adolph) Rupp probably gave us a little more leeway as sophomores than he had prior to that," Issel said of the 1967-68 season. "That certainly helped our development. ... All three of us started in our first varsity game. If Coach Rupp had a better team, I doubt he'd start three sophomores."

Issel, Casey and Pratt enjoyed that much more time to build a chemistry that was mutually beneficial. Each knew where the others were. And like Meeks and Patterson, the trio did not get in each other's way with Issel as a power player, Pratt a forward and Casey a guard.

Much like Issel-Pratt and Issel-Casey, Meeks-Patterson complement each other. Meeks scores from the perimeter, primarily, and Patterson around the basket.

So Meeks goes off for 27 in the first half as Tennessee State tries to contain Patterson.

"I don't want to get into too many negatives, but I don't know if they watched tape on him," teammate Kevin Galloway said of Meeks' first half against Tennessee State. "Because he was open too many times."

Then Patterson scores 23 in the second half as Tennessee State becomes concerned with Meeks.

"In the second half, they were keying on me more than him," Meeks said.

Pratt, who now works UK games as a commentator on the radio broadcasts, lamented the injuries that cost Meeks added time to work with Patterson last season.

"It's really sad Jodie didn't get to play much," Pratt said, "because he's really grown a lot."

Not that Meeks and Patterson are struggling.

With a bit of a boost, the two can become only the second tandem in UK basketball history to include two scoring averages of 20 or more points. So far, only Rupp's Runts Pat Riley (22.0 ppg) and Louie Dampier (21.1 ppg) have done that.

Meeks is averaging 24.9 points, the highest since Issel averaged 33.9 points as a senior in 1969-70. Patterson, who scored a career-high 33 against Tennessee State, averages 19.0 per game.

Issel-Pratt and Issel-Casey had one disadvantage when compared to Meeks-Patterson.

"They did that without benefit of the three-point line," Issel said of Pratt (19.3 ppg) and Casey (19.1 ppg) as Robins to his Batman. "And they both had that kind of range."

Meeks spoke in deferential tones when reporters noted his standing with great Kentucky shooters. His nine three-pointers against Appalachian State on Saturday equaled a school record. His seven in the first half against Tennessee State equaled another UK standard.

"It's a great honor to be up there with Kentucky legends," he said. "It's an honor to be in the same paragraph as Dan Issel."