John Calipari pulled off one more shocker on the final day of the national signing period, nabbing a commitment from five-star combo guard Malik Monk in what could be the final addition to a recruiting class that will rank among UK’s best ever.
Monk — a 6-foot-4 prospect from Lepanto, Ark. — chose Kentucky over the home-state Razorbacks, who were considered the favorite for much of his recruitment. That he committed to the Cats was not necessarily a surprise, but the timing certainly was. Monk had long said that he planned to stretch his recruitment out to the spring and had no plans to sign early.
Arkansas was seen as a school that would be tough for UK to beat. Malik’s brother, Marcus Monk, was a two-sport standout for the Razorbacks and a former member of Mike Anderson’s staff. Anderson made Monk his No. 1 priority years ago, once bringing the entire Razorbacks team to one of his high school games.
But Calipari turned up the heat on Monk’s recruitment starting in summer 2014, and the dynamic recruit took his official visit to Lexington on the weekend of Big Blue Madness.
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Monk also took official visits to Kansas and Oregon and earned scholarship offers from several other major programs.
“This has been the toughest decision I have made in my life,” Monk said Wednesday. “With so many great coaches and historical programs recruiting me it has really been a tough but fun process. In saying this, I will be continuing my maturation as a student-athlete at the University of Kentucky. Having the opportunity to win a national championship with my friends and the relationship I have with the coaching staff was very impactful in my decision.”
UK now has the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, surpassing Duke for that position with the commitment of Monk, who is ranked as one of the top six players in the class of 2016 by all of the major recruiting services.
He averaged 26.9 points per game as a high school junior last season and was named a MaxPreps.com first-team All-American. He was also one of the leading scorers on the Nike summer circuit with 19.7 points per game.
Monk joins No. 1 point guard De’Aaron Fox, five-star power forwards Edrice “Bam” Adebayo and Sacha Killeya-Jones, and five-star small forward Wenyen Gabriel in UK’s class. Adebayo committed to the Cats on Tuesday after being viewed as a near-lock to North Carolina State for most of his recruitment.
“I’m not going to say it’s the best class that Calipari has recruited, but it’s certainly in the conversation,” said Scout.com’s Evan Daniels.
Fox and Monk, who both have compared their games to NBA star Russell Westbrook, will form arguably the best backcourt in the country for the 2016-17 season.
Scout.com ranks them as the two best guards in the class of 2016.
“On defense, it’s going to be ridiculous,” Daniels said. “Both of those guys are very good perimeter defenders and will continue to get better on that end of the floor. Offensively, I can’t imagine there’s a more athletic backcourt in the country.
“You’re looking at two guys who can both handle the ball and score and make shots.”