No Going Back Now

Published 1:04 am Tuesday, June 16, 2009

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky top scorer Jodie Meeks has decided to leave the Wildcats and remain in consideration for the NBA draft.

Coach John Calipari posted Monday on Twitter that Meeks had called to let him know about the decision. The school also released a statement.

‘‘I want to thank the fans and the city of Lexington,’’ Meeks said in the statement. ‘‘They have been great and I will always be a Kentucky Wildcat. 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.’’

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Calipari wrote on Twitter that he understood the decision for Meeks, who led the Southeastern Conference in scoring and was eighth nationally with 23.7 points.

‘‘He’s excited and I’m excited for him,’’ Calipari said. ‘‘I wish I got the chance to coach him.’’

The decision is one of few setbacks in Calipari’s efforts to amass a star-studded roster. He has landed some of the nation’s top recruits, and center Patrick Patterson decided not to go pro.

Meeks provided one of the few highlights for a lackluster Kentucky season when he scored a team-record 54 points against Tennessee. Not only was that the highest-scoring game in Division I last season, but Meeks also had the next two highest in non-overtime games, with 46 and 45 points.

As the Southeastern Conference’s leading scorer, he made the conference’s first team and became the first player in SEC history to win conference player of the week honors four times in one season.

Meeks started all 36 games and led the SEC in free-throw shooting (90.2), 3-point field goal shooting (40.6) and 3-point field goals per game (3.25). His 117 3-pointers were a Kentucky record.

The guard from Norcross, Ga., had one season of eligibility remaining. He will be the first Wildcat underclassman to join the NBA since Randolph Morris and Rajon Rondo in 2006.

With Meeks’ departure, Kentucky was nearing finalizing its full scholarship list for 2009-2010. Spokesman DeWayne Peevy said the school was preparing an announcement on that, but it was not ready on Monday.

Among the players not returning is Kevin Galloway, who told the Lexington Herald-Leader Calipari had encouraged him to go.

Galloway could be looking for a fourth college team after previously playing for Southern California, Southern Idaho and Kentucky. He averaged 10 minutes and 1.9 points last year for the Wildcats.