Former Norcross High and Kentucky star Jodie Meeks is convinced there is a place for him in the June 25 NBA draft. Meeks bypassed Monday's 5 p.m. deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft, ending his collegiate career one year early.
His former Norcross teammate, Georgia Tech forward Gani Lawal, officially withdrew his name from the draft Sunday and will return to school for his junior season.
"I want to thank the fans and the city of Lexington," Meeks said in a statement released by the school Monday. "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."
A 6-foot-3 shooting guard, Meeks was the SEC scoring champion as a junior and earned second-team All-America honors. He averaged 23.7 points and made a whopping 117 of the Wildcats' 202 shots from beyond the 3-point line. He also set the school record for points in a game (54 at Tennessee) and 3-pointers in a season. He shot an SEC-best 90.2 percent from the free throw line.
Meeks is considered a borderline first-round pick and wasn't listed as a first-rounder on any notable mock drafts prior to Monday's deadline, although the consensus had been that he would return to UK for a senior season under new coach John Calipari.
Calipari posted Monday morning on Twitter that he was excited for Meeks and wished he had the chance to coach him.
After declaring for the draft last month, Meeks did not sign with an agent, keeping open the possibility of a return to school. He is the first Kentucky underclassman to enter the draft since Hawks center Randolph Morris and Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo in 2006.
While a bit of a surprise, Meeks' decision is not a complete stunner. He placed himself on the radar of plenty of teams with a monster junior season.
He was one of five players to work out for the Hawks at Philips Arena on May 23, a session that included Louisville swingman Terrence Williams, Temple shooting guard Dionte Christmas, LSU shooting guard Marcus Thornton and Texas A&M swingman Josh Carter.
The Hawks have the 19th pick in the draft. They also have a second-round pick (No. 49 overall).
Lawal actually generated more first-round buzz than Meeks in the weeks leading up to Monday's deadline. He was projected as a first-rounder on nearly every mock draft published but opted to return to school.
NBA decision day
Declaring for the draft
Jodie Meeks, Kentucky
Jeff Teague, Wake Forest
Austin Daye, Gonzaga
Patrick Mills, St. Mary's
Jrue Holiday, UCLA
Staying in school
Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
Devan Downey, South Carolina
Tyler Smith, Tennessee
Damion James, Texas
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland
* Tech's Hewitt says Lawal's return will help Favors; Irish's Harangody returns for shot at history. C4
* Making bold moves helped Lakers win championship. C4