2016 Arkansas standout who wowed at Peach Jam: Calipari 'wants me real bad'

broberts@herald-leader.comJuly 21, 2014 

For the rest of Malik Monk's recruitment, John Calipari will have a pretty good story to tell.

The UK basketball coach began Friday at the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C., where he sat alongside colleagues and evaluated several of his top recruiting targets. Then he was back in Lexington, being photographed next to LeBron James while the NBA megastar watched his son play in a local AAU event.

Calipari could have easily stayed home that night and re-joined the recruiting masses in the morning. Instead, he returned to Peach Jam for one more game.

He sat on the baseline and watched Monk go for 40 points in spectacular fashion. And from now on, Calipari will be able to tell Monk that he left LeBron back in Lexington just to watch the Arkansas standout play.

"He says that he wants me real bad," Monk said. "And I can tell that he does."

Calipari watched — occasionally shaking his head in disbelief — as Monk drained long, contested three-pointers, made defenders look foolish, completed seemingly impossible passes and threw down massive dunks.

One tomahawk jam was so emphatic that the fans behind his team's bench were called for a technical foul for their frenzied response.

Monk just trotted back up the court. Nothing new to him.

"That dude is a different kind of athlete," said Scout.com's Evan Daniels. "He's not the type of athlete you see every day."

Monk, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard in the class of 2016, has long been able to get by on his elite athleticism. It's the evolution of the rest of his game that makes him such an impressive prospect.

Scout.com ranks him as the No. 5 player (and top guard) in the class, which looks to be more talented on the whole than the 2015 group.

"It's certainly a lot deeper than 2015, especially at the top," Daniels said. "But regardless of class, he's one of the best guards in the country. When I'm looking at scoring guards, I don't know who I'm taking above him. ... He's a different-level prospect than the rest of these guys."

Daniels also noted that Monk is not a "one-tool player." Sure, he's one of the best — arguably the best — backcourt scorer in the country, but he also passes and defends at an elite level.

The passing is something he's been specifically working on lately, said Marcus Monk, Malik's older brother and a former football and basketball player at Arkansas.

Marcus said his younger brother has attended point guard camps all summer and — if he keeps progressing — could play the position some in college.

"I wouldn't call him a point, and I wouldn't call him a shooting guard," Marcus said. "We put a lot of emphasis on him just being a ballplayer. ... A lot of his game is predicated around versatility. He's been doing a lot better facilitating this summer, and making it a goal of his to get better in that area.

"He's always had vision. But his decision-making has gotten a lot better. And I think that comes with maturity, more than anything else."

Marcus is quick to point out that Malik just turned 16 years old and still has a lot of physical and mental maturing to do before he heads to college. Their mother has entrusted the recruitment to Marcus, who has been through it before. His No. 1 goal is to make sure Malik is able to "enjoy the process" and concentrate primarily on basketball.

The texts and calls from coaches go to Marcus, and his phone is constantly buzzing.

He mentioned Florida, UK, Kansas, Arkansas, Indiana, Baylor, North Carolina, Arizona and Louisville as schools that have been in regular contact, apologizing in advance if he left anyone out. Most of those programs have offered scholarships, including UK.

Calipari called with the offer late last month, and Malik said he has been talking to the UK coach about once a week since then.

"It's Kentucky," he said excitedly. "He tells the truth. And the truth hurts sometimes, but it can be good for you and you can learn from the truth. And that's what I like about him. I like being pushed on and off the court."

Monk said he watches all of Kentucky's games and has been friends with former Wildcats guard Archie Goodwin — a fellow Arkansan — since the seventh grade. Monk noticed Calipari on the sidelines during his games last week.

The brothers like the UK coach's track record for developing top prospects into pros.

"You can just look at the history and see that it's a proven fact that they're doing something right," Marcus said. "That's good to have hard facts. You don't have to ask people; you can do your own research.

"You just know that he knows how to manage those type of players, and he's had a lot of great players come through his system."

Many think that Malik will end up a Razorback, primarily because of his family's ties to the program. Marcus said it'll all be up to little brother.

"He has to make a decision that's best for him," he said. "The decision is his. Wherever he goes and wherever he feels comfortable, I'm going to be behind him 100 percent."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.

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