High School Basketball

Nike EYBL: 2016's Jayson Tatum, Malik Monk lackluster in latest clash

"Their program is nice and they develop their players real good," Malik Monk, left, said of Kentucky's basketball program.
"Their program is nice and they develop their players real good," Malik Monk, left, said of Kentucky's basketball program. Herald-Leader

The last time Malik Monk and Jayson Tatum faced off on the basketball court, the two University of Kentucky recruiting targets combined for 76 points in front of John Calipari.

That was in a high school game back in November. On Saturday night, UK's coach was back for a Round 2 that failed to live up to the hype.

Monk, who scored 45 points in that first game, managed 19 points and made only three of his 13 field-goal attempts Saturday, but his Arkansas Wings squad defeated Tatum and the St. Louis Eagles, 78-69, in Nike league action in Lexington.

Tatum was the top scorer in the rematch with 20 points, but he went 4-for-13 from the field. The two five-star recruits combined to go 25-for-27 on free throws, each missing one.

The off nights won't keep Calipari from calling.

Monk and Tatum are two of UK's top priorities in the class of 2016, and there was a clear presence of blue and white Saturday night.

In addition to the UK fans who surrounded the court at the Kentucky Basketball Academy, the crowd included Calipari, assistant coach Kenny Payne and Tony Barbee, who many expect to replace Barry "Slice" Rohrssen on the UK staff.

Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Devin Booker were among the many others who gathered around the court to watch two of the best high school players in America.

UK has a shot at both, but neither recruitment will be easy.

Tatum — the No. 1 player in the class, according to ESPN — recently cut his list to UK, Duke, North Carolina and hometown Saint Louis, his father's alma mater. He said earlier this weekend that he doesn't have a favorite, but many expect him to pick the Blue Devils.

"UK has certainly recruited him hard," said Scout.com's Evan Daniels. "But, if I were to say there was one school in better shape than the others, I would lean toward Duke."

Monk hasn't cut his list, though UK and home-state Arkansas — where his brother played football and basketball — are considered his favorites.

"I hear it a lot, but every school has a chance right now," Monk said.

He added that he plans to cut his list to six schools after the Nike Peach Jam finals in July. Monk also said his dream was to play in the NBA — as the No. 4 player in the class of 2016, that's expected — and UK's recent success in that area will likely be a factor.

"It's crazy, Kentucky having seven guys go to the league," Monk said. "Their program is nice and they develop their players real good. It may be a good impact on my choice."

Earlier Saturday, Monk scored 39 points — and was 6-for-8 from three-point range — as Calipari and Payne looked on.

King of Cards?

Five-star small forward V.J. King is one of a select few players in the class of 2016 with a scholarship offer from Kentucky, but it sounds like Louisville is a bigger player in his recruitment at the moment.

King said Saturday that he has scheduled his first official visit, and it will be a trip to U of L on May 19. The 6-foot-6 prospect added that he has no other official visits on his calendar.

Louisville assistant coach Kenny Johnson is a former assistant at Paul VI High School in Virginia, where King just wrapped up his junior season. Johnson is the point man in U of L's recruitment of King.

"We've gotten really close," King said. "It's definitely a great relationship."

King said he is in contact with UK Coach John Calipari "once or twice a week," but no one from UK's staff watched him play until his third game of the Nike EYBL session in Lexington. Calipari and Payne saw him Saturday night after focusing on other recruits earlier in the weekend.

Former U of L player David Padgett is recruiting for the Cardinals this weekend while the hire of new assistant coach Ralph Willard is finalized, and Padgett watched King play both days. Louisville assistant Mike Balado was there to see him Saturday.

Scout.com ranks King as the No. 13 overall prospect in the class of 2016.

Top five

Huntington Prep standout Miles Bridges is waiting on a scholarship offer from Kentucky, but he still has the Wildcats in his top five.

Bridges — the No. 7 player in ESPN's class of 2016 rankings — told the Herald-Leader on Saturday that his top five schools are UK, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State and North Carolina.

The 6-foot-6 wing player has been recruited by Kentucky for more than a year, and Payne watched him play Saturday. He's also waiting on a scholarship offer from UNC.

Busy day

UK Coach John Calipari started his Saturday in Indianapolis, where he watched class of 2016 shooting guard Rawle Alkins play on the Adidas circuit.

Later in the morning, he had already arrived in Lexington to see UK's top-priority recruits in the class of 2016. Calipari was courtside for games featuring Udoka Azubuike, Harry Giles, Malik Monk and Jayson Tatum in the morning/afternoon session.

Coaches in town

Just a few of the other high-profile coaches spotted at the Nike event in Lexington so far this weekend: Kansas' Bill Self, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Indiana's Tom Crean, Florida's Billy Donovan, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan, new Texas coach Shaka Smart, new St. John's coach Chris Mullin, Wichita State's Gregg Marshall, Arkansas' Mike Anderson and Notre Dame's Mike Brey.

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