While aiming to be NBA Rookie of the Year, former Kentucky player Malik Monk set an even higher goal for himself.
“I’m going to learn,” he said after being picked by the Charlotte Hornets with the 11th pick of Thursday’s NBA Draft. “Learn from the vets and listen to the coach and try to be the best player and the best listener and learner ever.”
Monk expressed admiration for Hornets’ guard Kemba Walker, who bedeviled Kentucky in the 2010-11 season.
“I watched him a lot in college when he was at UConn,” Monk said, “and modeled some of my stuff after his game. I got the step-back from him.
“So I’m just thankful to be in this situation, and hopefully it’ll work out good.”
Monk said he and Walker share the same agency.
UK Coach John Calipari sounded satisfied with how the draft began.
“I’m happy,” he said before leaving late in the first round. “I thought both Bam and Malik would go a little bit earlier. But they’re both in the lottery, and they’re both on good teams. So it’s good. It’s a good day. Good graduation day.”
Fox wanted to go to Sacramento, said Calipari, who saw Monk in a good situation in Charlotte.
“He’s there with Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist), who is the ultimate pro …,” Calipari said. “It’s going to be great.”
Calipari also saw the Miami Heat as a good organization for Adebayo to join.
“No one works harder than that organization,” Calipari said. “And they’re going to have a player (in Adebayo) that fits right in there.”
Fox’s mother saw the draft as a culmination.
“All your emotions and the hard work you’ve done over the last 15 years or so, it feels like a blessing has finally come through,” Lorraine Harris-Fox said. “It’s just a blessing. You’re just filled with emotion that his dream has come true.”
Harris-Fox said she had no problem with her son moving across the country.
“I’m OK,” she said. “Because I know he’s done what he needed to do to make his dream come true.”
Youth is served
A record of 14 college freshmen were picked in the 2016 NBA Draft. That’s one more than in 2015.
That record was broken in the first round of this year’s NBA Draft.
UK stays ahead
Going into the draft, Kentucky had the most first-round picks (32) and total picks (44) since 1989. Duke was second with 30 first rounders and 42 total picks.
In this year’s Draft, UK had three first-round picks in Fox, Monk and Bam. Duke also had three in Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Harry Giles.
Rookie of Year?
On the eve of the draft, Monk spoke of setting a goal of being named Rookie of the Year.
Calipari has had three players named NBA Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose in 2008-09, Tyreke Evans in 2009-10 and Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015-16.
Of course, Rose and Evans played for Calipari at Memphis.
G League counts
Of the 60 players selected last year, 39 spent time in the NBA Development League. That includes 17 of the 30 first-round picks.
The earliest pick who played in the D-League (now the G League) was Jakob Poeltl, whom the Toronto Raptors took with the ninth pick of the first round.
Calipari voiced support for the one-and-done player in college basketball. There’s talk of the NBA moving to a two-and-done rule requiring players to be out of high school two years.
“Everybody acts like it’s just broken,” he said. “Why do you say that?”
Calipari called the one college season “a gap year” for players. “It gives them that year to get ready” for the NBA, he said.
The NBA issued a pronunciation guide for several player names.
Although the Big Blue Nation needed no help with these names, the list included Edrice Adebayo (eh-DREECE Ah-duh-BUY-oh) and De’Aaron Fox (Dee-Aaron Fox).