It is hard to unplug Malik Monk, because he rightly calls himself an “electrifying” player and has the personality to match.
But let’s try. I sat down one-on-one with Monk in Charlotte on Friday. And let me tell you, Hornets fans — your 2017 first-round draft pick is going to be a whole lot of fun.
Monk is a gregarious, extremely confident teenager (he’s still 19) who is fresh off a dazzling freshman year at the University of Kentucky. In our conversation, the shooting guard riffed on Michael Jordan, why he didn’t fly to Charlotte for a pre-draft workout and why he believes his shooting range is better than Steph Curry’s. Some excerpts:
Do you want to take every big shot?
Yes sir. I love having the ball in my hands at the end of the game. I think almost every time a big shot came up at the end of a Kentucky game, I made it.
Explain to me the difference in your shooting range and two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry’s shooting range.
Mine is better than his.
C’mon – is it really?
Oh, probably not. But you’ve got to have that confidence. If you don’t have that confidence, you’re not going to carry yourself good. And my confidence is at an all-time high.
So what is your shooting range?
When I walk in the gym.
When you start off 0-for-10 in a game, what do you do?
I shoot No. 11. I don’t care. I’m going to make one soon.
Describe your personality.
I’m outgoing. I try to have fun and get everybody involved in it — make everybody laugh. Have a good time. No negative energy. And on the court? Electrifying.
You mentioned wanting to play better defense and rebounding better on Thursday night. What do you have to do on the court you haven’t done yet to make people understand how good you can be?
A lot of people didn’t see me making decisions off ball screens or passing. That’s because we had (De’Aaron) Fox at Kentucky (the No. 5 selection in the draft). I think I’ll show a lot of other things — like point-guard abilities that a lot of people haven’t seen yet.
Do you prefer shooting guard over point guard?
I don’t care. All the way up until Kentucky I had the ball in my hands the whole time — high school, AAU, all of that.
Do you handle the ball well enough to play point in the NBA?
I don’t get the ball taken from me that much. I keep it simple, don’t do fancy stuff too much, and get the job done. The ball goes where it needs to go.
Could you beat Hornets owner Michael Jordan in a one-on-one game right now?
Oh yeah, I can beat him now. He’s old. ... I got him now.
Your Kentucky coach, John Calipari, said on ESPN’s draft coverage Thursday night that you play basketball like Jordan. Have you seen enough tape of Jordan to compare your games?
I’ve watched a lot of tape. The mid-range game — he has that, I have that. ... I shoot more threes than he did. He’s super-athletic, I’m super-athletic. But I would never try to compare myself to him because he’s the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). I can’t do that. That’s disrespecting Jordan right now. I haven’t even played an NBA game yet.
You didn’t do a pre-draft workout in Charlotte, and the Hornets said that was because you and your agent never thought you would drop to the 11th pick. Is that right?
That’s accurate. But everything happens for a reason. This might be the best fit for me.
What’s realistic this season for you as an NBA rookie in terms of points per game?
Twelve or 14, somewhere in there.
Why are you Ahmad Monk on Twitter instead of Malik Monk?
Ahmad is my middle name. A lot of fans had ‘Malik Monk’ already.
What’s the best game you ever played — was it that 47-point game against North Carolina?
No. I’d say it was at Ole Miss. I had a lot of points, didn’t take that many shots (34 points on 11-for-16 shooting) and got to the free-throw line a lot.
What percentages are you looking to shoot in the NBA?
50-40-90. That’s a great shooter to me (meaning 50 percent from two-point range, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the line. No NBA player achieved this golden standard last season; Curry was the last to do so, in 2015-16).
That’s what I’ve got to be. I was close to that in college except for my free-throw percentage. That was only 82 percent, and I have to bring that up.
You are known as a mid-range and three-point shooter. Can you drive the ball successfully in the NBA against those big men inside?
Man — that’s why I have to get in the weight room. I played last season at around 185 pounds, but I want to be 195.
You said Thursday night you wanted to be the NBA Rookie of the Year for 2017-18. Does that mean you think you were the top player available Thursday night?
For sure. I think I’m the best player in this draft.