I have been thinking long and hard about the lack of leadership the Kentucky basketball team has shown since the departure of Chuck Hayes in 2004. That hole has never been properly filled. Oh, we have had plenty of guys like Morris and Rondo and others attempt to lead by example, but what we see on the floor, particularly against teams like Houston and EKU that we should beat easily, is a lack of leadership.
Leadership is more than scoring and rebounding and playing well. It is reminding your teammates where they are supposed to be, and taking them to task when they let down the team. It is being early for practice, and staying late. It is telling people in no uncertain terms what you expect from them, and delivering more than they expect from yourself. Leadership is taking responsibility for failure, and correcting it. It is the fearlessness to tell others, even your upperclassmen, when they are not getting the job done, and doing all you can to help them fix it. It is self-sacrificing, self-confident, yet humble.
I think Kentucky has finally found a leader to replace Chuck. His name is Jodie Meeks.
That's right, the next leader for the Wildcats is a babe in the woods, a freshman with no more than 14 college games and a couple of exhibitions under his belt. "Now, hold on just a minute there, Tru", you say, "How is it that you know this?" Well, I don't "know", exactly, but I have strong reason to believe it, and I'll tell you why. I remember back in the days when Chuck Hayes first came to Kentucky, it seemed like Tubby Smith was really hard on the guy. He seemed to always yell at Chuck, and Chuck always had this kind of serene look on his face after Smith gave him back the well-gnawed remains of his backside. I always wondered about that.
Now, we find the same thing happening with Jodie Meeks. In at least three BBN games this year, Dave Baker & Co. have commented on how Smith seems to chew out Meeks all the time, and how well he seems to take it. So, comes now this article from Larry Vaught. In it, you will note this line from Meeks when addressing Smith's tirades:
"I try not to listen to how he says it, but what he says," said Meeks after Wednesday's win over Houston. "He's tough, but I can handle it. I was used to it." That's because Meeks' father always demanded the best from him.Said Randolph Morris of Meeks,"It sometimes seems like he is the whipping boy for the entire team in practice," junior Randolph Morris said. "He takes it and just keeps on going. He's not afraid of anything."
That, to me, is a clear indication of Meeks' character - that of a leader. He isn't hearing the loudness, or the method of delivery. He pays attention to the content of what is said.
Vince Lombardi famously said:
Leaders aren't born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.Indeed. And that is what is happening before our very eyes. Smith is finishing what Meeks' dad started with Jodie. He is making us a leader.