North Carolina sophomore small forward Justin Jackson and junior center Kennedy Meeks will enter this year’s draft, but they will do so without hiring agents so they can retain their college eligibility, the school announced. Jackson is the 64th-best prospect on Jonathan Givony’s DraftExpress board, but Chad Ford of ESPN.com ranks him only 126th. Meeks is right behind him at No. 127 in Ford’s listings, while Givony, whose top overall prospect rankings only go to No. 100, views his stock more optimistically for next year, pegging him 47th in his 2017 mock draft. Jackson and Meeks can return to college ball if they withdraw by May 25th, as long as they don’t hire agents before then.
Jackson, a 6’8″ 21-year-old, was highly touted coming out of high school in 2014, when he was ninth in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, sandwiched between 2015 first-round NBA draft picks Kelly Oubre and Rashad Vaughn. The past two years have seen Jackson’s stock slip as he’s posted underwhelming numbers for the Tar Heels, with just 12.2 points and 3.9 rebounds to his credit in 28.4 minutes per game this past season. He shot only 29.2% from 3-point range, a slight decline from his 30.4% accuracy as a freshman.
Meeks, who’s also 21, is only 6’9″ and has struggled with his weight, with Givony listing him at 279 pounds. Meeks arrived at UNC with less promise than Jackson did, ranking just 56th in the 2013 RSCI, and the past season represented a regression for him as he experienced declines in minutes, field goal percentage, scoring and most other categories. He averaged 9.2 points and 5.9 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game. Still, his strength and skilled post play are commodities, according to Ford.