St. Francis — Jodie Meeks, a prolific scorer at Kentucky, will get a chance to light it up for the Milwaukee Bucks after being selected in the second round of the National Basketball Association draft on Thursday night.
The 6-foot-4, 208-pound shooting guard came out after his junior year at Kentucky rather than returning to play for new Wildcats coach John Calipari. He averaged 23.7 points as a junior and set a single-game school scoring record with a 54-point outburst against Tennessee.
Meeks shot 40.6% from three-point range and 90.2% from the free throw line for Kentucky last season. He will try to duplicate the success of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Bucks' second-round pick last season who played in all 82 games as a rookie after being selected 37th overall.
"He was a guy we had on our board for the last few days, and up until even last night, and we said, 'No way this kid makes it to the second round,'" said Bucks general manager John Hammond. "I'm sure a lot of people are saying that about their second-round picks.
"We just felt he's one of the top-notch shooters in this draft. Our guys who were out scouting all year said he may be one of the better defenders, too. He has great strength and is a great athlete, but one thing he can do is shoot the ball the way he can."
There was considerable speculation about whether Meeks would stay in the draft or go back to Kentucky for his senior year, but he opted to take his opportunity now to begin an NBA career.
In his 54-point game against Tennessee, Meeks hit 10 three-pointers and went 14 for 14 at the foul line. He holds Kentucky's all-time single-season record for three-pointers made (117) and finished his college career with 1,246 points.
He didn't play extensively during his first two years with the Wildcats before blossoming in his junior year.
"I don't think I get enough credit for my athletic ability," Meeks said.
Bucks coach Scott Skiles said Meeks could provide some offensive firepower.
"He arguably was the best shooter in college basketball last year," Skiles said. "He's a guy who has some toughness, a nice strong body and a really good defender.
"If you've got guys on the perimeter that can knock down shots and then they're not a liability on the other end, those are good assets to have."
The Bucks have traditionally had success in the second round, with Mbah a Moute being the latest example. Shooting guard Michael Redd was a second-round pick in the 2000 draft, the 43rd overall choice. Just two years ago, the Bucks picked point guard Ramon Sessions with the 56th overall pick.
Meeks said he was excited to be joining the Bucks.
"I know Michael Redd is a great shooter, and I'm just going to come in and be like a sponge," he said. "I'm going to try to absorb a lot of things and learn as much as I can." Meeks said his fine shooting touch came from plenty of practice.
"Just long hours in a gym," he said. "Just keep shooting. I still do that to this day." The Bucks saw Meeks at the NBA draft combine in Chicago, and he said he knew the team was interested in him then."I wasn't sure where I would go," Meeks said. "I'm happy to be in Milwaukee."My ability to shoot the three is definitely a strength. I'm looking forward to learning the offense."