Kentucky: Team or One-Man Show?

    
February 17th, 2009
It's getting harder to trust Billy Gillispie. Listen to the UK coach long enough, and you'll come away believing that the sky is green, unicorns are real, and the economy is doing just fine.

But there's one thing Gillispie can't sell me on - even with that power tie, firm handshake and Cheshire cat grin.

"This is Kentucky, not Jodie Meeks. This is not a one-man team."

Gillispie's now-famous halftime interview with ESPN's Jeannine Edwards on Jan. 27 during the Cats' battle with Ole Miss is where Gillispie dropped this revelation...and at the time it seemed legit. Meeks had managed only six points in the first half, and Kentucky still led. And although he would finish with 21, Kentucky would go on to lose that game, the first of a three-game losing streak. So maybe this wasn't just Jodie and four backup singers. Maybe the Cats truly needed a team effort to get victories.

Or maybe not.

One month after scorching Tennessee for a school-record 54 points, The Jodie Show delivered another heroic effort on Valentines Day, roasting Arkansas for an arena-record 45 points. Slicing and dicing through the Hogs' defense all afternoon, Meeks carried the Cats to a big road victory, moved them ever closer to the NCAA Tournament and also put a pretty sizable dent in Gillispie's whole "team" theory.

Meeks finished the game 17-24 from the field, including 7-12 from the three-point line. The rest of the team was 11-30, and you have to imagine there was some open looks in there, considering the attention being paid to #23. With the 23 he scored against Florida on Tuesday, Meeks now has 68 of the Cats' last 147 points. Who's second you ask? That would be junior PG Michael Porter...who has a grand total of 17 points in that span. 17!! Meeks usually hits that mark before the second TV timeout.

In all fairness, Meeks' explosion was needed on Saturday, with stud forward Patrick Patterson resting a sprained ankle on the bench. And lost among the commotion of Meek's baskets is that UK has righted themselves after that three-game skid, having won two straight to tie South Carolina for the SEC East lead.

But after Saturday, I'm not entirely sure we shouldn't change the mascot name to become the Kentucky Meeks. The season-long call for a third scorer to compliment Meeks and Patterson has gone unanswered, and at this point, it seems Gillispie is content if the other players just stay out of the way and don't screw things up for Jodie.

Look - I realize that in basketball, you have to feed the hot hand. And when a player is having the kind of afternoon Meeks was having, it's hard not to find yourself watching like a fan, even if you're on the floor. The season that Meeks has put together thus far is nothing short of amazing, and we should all be grateful for having witnessed it.

But don't tell me this team isn't Jodie and then everyone else. With the way he scores, Gillispie could have surrounded Meeks with a group of senior citizens using walkers on Saturday and it wouldn't have mattered.

For his part, Meeks has remained remarkably humble throughout his breakout season, constantly passing up chances to pat himself on the back while praising his teammates for their efforts and contributions. Right...like he needs the help.

Have you seen this guy on the court? He's freaking unstoppable! He rolls out of bed and scores 20. Rumor has it that UK put a lid on the basket during practice the other day to work on rebounding...and Jodie drained seven 3's right through it. He later scored 25 in a scrimmage using a medicine ball. He's so good, they should start charging the other players admission. Hey - if I have to pay for a ticket to watch him, so should Porter!

So next time Jodie has another scoring outburst, and he credits his teammates for it, don't listen to a word he says.

He learned from his coach.