24 Jun

In Malik Monk, Michael Jordan Finally Has a Protege In His Own Likeness

Malik Monk

Michael Jordan has been an NBA owner since 2006, when he bought a minority stake in what was then the Charlotte Bobcats. He’s seen some talented, high-scoring guards come through the franchise in that time, including Jason Richardson, Corey Maggette, Ben Gordon and Kemba Walker. He occasionally dishes advice to his players and has even played a few one-on-one.

Before this week, though, Jordan never had the opportunity to mentor someone who plays like him. That changed Thursday night, when the Charlotte Hornets drafted Lepanto native Malik Monk.

Even when Malik Monk was a sophomore in high school, I pointed out he’s the closest thing Arkansas has ever produced to its own M.J. The rest of the nation began catching on in full this past December after his 47-point explosion against Jordan’s alma mater. In that UNC detonation, broadcaster Bill Raftery compared him to M.J. (and Jerry West, to boot).

Monk finished his only season in college as a 20-point scorer with a devastatingly effective midrange jumper. He doesn’t yet have the fadeaway M.J. developed, but his three-point shot (he made nearly 40% of his nearly 7 attempts per game) is already superior. Many speculated he would be drafted by the New York Knicks with the No. 8 pick of this year’s draft. When he dropped out of the Top 10, his college coach John Calipari said he knew he wouldn’t slide past Charlotte at No. 11. “I knew that he wasn’t going to fall by Michael,” Calipari said. “He plays like Mike.”

As talented, explosive, skilled and fundamentally sound as Malik Monk is on the offensive side of the ball, don’t expect him to evoke M.J.’s otherworldly defense any time soon. For starters, at 6-3, he doesn’t have the length of an M.J., who stood 6-6 and had longer arms. And Monk himself has said he needs to learn to give max effort on that side of the ball each time out.

But, then again, Malik Monk just needs to be a good defender—not a great one—to do what the Hornets will need him to do in order to improve their bottom-of-the-barrell 2018 NBA Championship odds according to major sportsbooks.

In Jordan’s era and earlier in the 21st century, NBA rules allowed more physical contact, which allowed defense-first players who couldn’t shoot well (e.g. Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace) to play major roles on championship teams. The modern NBA, however, allows for far less physical contact and puts a premium on players’  ability to create and make shots. The Golden State Warriors, the modern era’s best team, regularly unleash at least four players on the court at the same time who can not only create for themselves, but others.

This has created an evolved style in which great offense tends to beat good-to-great defense on most days. To beat the Warriors, or the Cavaliers or Spurs for that matter, the Hornets “got to put the ball in the basket. That becomes your defense,” Kenny Smith, Michael Jordan’s college teammate, said on the NBA Draft 2017 broadcast. “If [Monk] learns how to score the same the way he did in college, against taller, bigger, faster players, then he is what they needed.”

We’ll see how rapidly Monk can pick up the intricacies of Charlotte’s offense and get the consistency of defensive effort up to an acceptable level. He, for one, shows no lack of confidence involving anything to do with basketball.

After the draft, Monk gushed about the opportunity to learn from Michael Jordan. “I think he’ll teach me a lot and I’ll take an even bigger step each year. Each year I’m going to try to learn as much as I can from him.”

And if he gets the chance to play M.J. one-on-one?.

“I’m going to beat him,” Monk said with a smile.

All-Time Highest Selected Arkansan Guards* In the NBA Draft 

1.(t) Eddie Miles (North Little Rock): Pick 4, 1964 Draft

1.(t)Mike Conley (Fayetteville): Pick 4, 2007 Draft

2. Ron Brewer (Fort Smith): Pick 7, 1978 Draft

3. (t) Fat Lever (Pine Bluff): Pick 11, 1982 Draft

3. (t) Malik Monk (Lepanto): Pick 11, 2017 Draft

 

*I’m looking at players who primarily played guard in both college and the NBA. Sidney Moncrief and Scottie Pippen both were Top 5 draft picks, but the former played more as a forward in college while the latter played forward in the pros. 

14 Feb

Bill Ingram on Mike Anderson’s Fate at Arkansas: Part 1

Bill Ingram

Bill Ingram, a former Razorback football player who lives in the Little Rock area,  has become one of his state’s most influential basketball people. He directs the Arkansas Hawks AAU program, which last summer put forth a 16U team from which every last starter has committed to the Hogs.

But their on-court impact is almost  two years away. Will current Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson even be around then? This has become a pressing topic in light of Arkansas’ recent stretch of bad losses to Oklahoma State, Missouri and Vanderbilt.

Bill Ingram recently shared his thoughts on Arkansas’ program with sports talk show host Bo Mattingly. The below excerpts are lightly edited for clarity:

Bill Ingram: … I’m just like any other fan. I’m disappointed in what’s going on and how the team is playing. And hopefully, that they can turn this thing around now but, the thing is, can you turn it around? And some of the things that we’ve got a chance to witness is just not a pretty … It’s not good basketball. And when it’s a lack of effort and that’s never a good thing.

Bo Mattingly: What has surprised you the most about how this season has unfolded?

Bill Ingram: At times the lack of effort. From looking at it from a coach’s standpoint, what I see is: I’m just not sure guys really know their role. I don’t think guys’ roles have been defined, or they’re not playing their roles, that stuff.

When I look at them I see, just a little bit of all kinds of stuff from each of the players. And we got a post man out shooting threes and putting the ball between his legs. I’m an old school type guy, so I think everybody should know exactly what they’re suppose to be doing and what’s expected of them. And it’s obvious when you get some of the results that they’re getting, that’s not the case.

Bo Mattingly: There’s been a lot of in state kids that have gone elsewhere, some because they didn’t get an offer, others because they just chose, like KeVaughn Allen or Malik Monk. How would you describe what [Anderson’s] been able to do in recruiting? Obviously it looks good moving forward. How would you kind of summarize it?

Bill Ingram: Well, like you said, it looks good moving forward. But what’s happen in the past, it has not been good. Cause having a guy … getting an opportunity to get a guy like KeVaughn. He would have been a perfect fit for some of the stuff they’re doing.

Now the situation with Malik was totally different. I think that they had different plans from the very beginning and that’s just my opinion. And it didn’t make a difference, if Phil Jackson was the coach, they weren’t going to be here. That’s my opinion.

But KeVaughn probably may be a little different story. I don’t know how the recruiting went with him, because of course I wasn’t a part of it, but I would have really loved to see him in a Razorback uniform.

Bo Mattingly: … What do you think is the issue with Arkansas basketball, big picture, that has lead to one tournament in five years, and what could end up being one NCAA tournament in six years?

Bill Ingram: Well the big picture is we thought we would be a lot farther along in six years. We thought this team would be a solid 3rd or 4th place team and having a good chance of heading to the NCAA tournament. And that was true up until about 10 days ago. But, the fact is, that we’re going through some of these growing pains and this is year six of Coach Anderson’s coaching regime.

It’s not a good thing. And I don’t know if there’s anybody that would say any different. So we thought we would be in a better position by now and we’re not there… Fans are not happy. You spend your hard earned dollars to go and support your team and they go out there and give efforts like that. I don’t want to get into what kind of talent level’s Missouri got, but it’s definitely not the talent level of Arkansas. So those games are games that you know that you need to win.

And in order for you to build a good basketball program you gotta win the games you’re suppose to win.


Read more about Ingram’s thoughts on Anderson and the state of the Hogs  by going here. 

19 Dec

Bill Raftery Compares Malik Monk to Michael Jordan, Jerry West

Malik Monk jumper

During Monk’s 47-point detonation, the longtime CBS announcer didn’t hold back with the praise

 

At the start of the 2016-17 season, Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman assessed Kentucky freshman Malik Monk’s NBA potential. Names like “J.R. Smith” and “Monta Ellis” were thrown out. In the comments, someone chimed in with “DeMar DeRozan” as Monk’s ceiling. Someone else agreed that’s a very good apex.

That ceiling may need to be raised a floor or two after Saturday. At night, in front of a national television audience,  Malik Monk scored 47 points in a thriller against North Carolina. The 6-3 shooting  guard produced the impressive shooting performance from an Arkansas native on a collegiate stage this big that I can recall:

 

 

If anybody thought Monk’s scoring ability or skill was overrated, this performance puts those doubts to bed. He is simply the most talented/electrifying scorer Arkansas has ever produced, and could overtake Joe Johnson as the most skilled. During the game, longtime CBS color commentator Bill Raftery, 73 years old and a college coach in the late 1960s through early 1980s – compared Monk’s first step to that of  Michael Jordan’s. (It’s very likely M.J. has watched this UNC-UK game. I’m sure the Tarheel was disappointed in the ending, but he was probably also glad to see Malik Monk — who was affiliated with Nike throughout the summer circuit — develop as a potential Jumpman representative in the future.)

Raftery also made a point of comparing Monk to the most skilled 6-2/6-3 scorer to ever play in the NBA: Jerry West. Specifically, he said Monk’s ability to “get those puppies aligned*” (i.e. his footwork on the jump shot)  reminded him of West’s.

This comparison is important to keep in mind when assessing where Monk will be drafted. He is only 6-3 and only has a wingspan just short of 6-4, and yes, that is short for a pure  shooting guard. Monk, though, projects to become a combo guard years down the line, in the mold of a Russell Westbrook or C.J. McCollum. Almost all all-time players are “combo” in the sense that their skills exploit  personnel mismatches, even if those mismatches come in the form of bigger, taller players.  Given up a few inches in height and arm span isn’t a death wish if the player is talented/skilled/driven enough to not only push through that deficit, but dominate despite of it.

Hakeem Olajuwon, at just over 6-9, is a case in point. He never seemed undersized against the giants of his day, though, because he almost always had the advantage in every other intangible and tangible you would want. Same goes with Steph Curry today at 6-2/6-3, who often has a strength and foot speed disadvantage. While in the 1960s, Curry’s height was more in line with the standard for a shooting guard, Jerry West still would have been a dominant scorer even if had he been a couple inches shorter.

In the pros, Malik Monk can do the same even as an undersized “scoring” guard.

His 47-point first-semester magnum opus hints at that more strongly than anything else. NBA executives are taking notice. In the last few weeks, Monk has more often appeared as a projected pick in the upper half of the 2017 NBA lottery. And, after the UNC win, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported an NBA executive can see him going No. 1 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft.**

 

*Credit to Marcus Monk, Malik’s older brother, for so consistently drilling him on the fundamentals over these last few years. 

**Monk would be the third Arkansan to be selected No. 1 overall in an NBA Draft. 

 

 

12 Mar

Christyn Williams, Nation’s No. 3 Player, Has Shot At Unprecedented Three-Peat

ESPN ranks Little Rock native Christyn Williams as the nation’s No. 3 overall player in the class of 2018. The 5-10 guard just finished a tremendous year, leading Central Arkansas Christian to a 24-14 finish and state runner up finish. The Lady Mustang put up around 30 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 steals a game and is the first female Arkansan to have gotten a basketball scholarship offer from perpetual national champion Connecticut. A Huskies coach attended her title game yesterday in Hot Springs. 

Unless Razorbacks coach Jimmy Dykes can convince her otherwise, Williams may become the first Arkansan to suit for Geno Auriemma’s juggernaut program. Her season puts her into position to do something else no Arkansan basketball player has done: win three consecutive Gatorade Player of the Year awards.

This week she won her first a sophomore, a feat which puts her in rare company. The only other Arkansan, male or female, to do that was Morrilton High superstar Shekinna Stricklin*, who later played for Tennessee before becoming the No. 2 overall pick in the WNBA Draft.

Stricklin won the award as a sophomore in 2006, and again as a senior two years later. Ironically, though, it was another Central Arkansas Christian star who kept her from a three-peat. Whitney Zachariason, who went on to play with Brittney Griner at Baylor, won the award in Stricklin’s junior season.

christyn williams

Photo by Mark Buffalo (Courtesy Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.)

Plenty of Arkansans have won the award back-to-back during their junior and senior years. It’s happened once in baseball and two times in football:

  • Ty Storey 2014-15
  • Michael Dyer 2009-10

We see four occurrences in girls’ basketball:

  • 2014-15 Jordan Danberry
  • 2012-13 Tyler Scaife
  • 2009-10 Morgan Hook
  • 1991-92 Kelly Johnson

On the boys side, back-to-backs happen more often. It’s arguable that two recent prep stars both deserved it in their sophomore years, although neither got it. Were it not for Bobby Portis, KeVaughn Allen likely would have won it as a sophomore in 2013 after leading North Little Rock to a state title and winning Finals MVP.

  • 2014-15 KeVaughn Allen
  • 2011-12 Archie Goodwin
  • 2008-09 Fred Gulley
  • 1997-98 Darrian Brown
  • 1991-92 Corliss Williamson

And were it not for Allen, Bentonville star Malik Monk probably would have taken the award as a sophomore in 2014.

Bentonville happens to also be home to one of the state’s only three athletes to win three straight Gatorade Player of the Year awards.  Jayhawk soccer player Taylor Estrada, the older sister of Monk’s teammate Aaron Estrada, accomplished the feat in 2011-13. Former Bryant High track star Spencer McCorkel also three-peated in 2005-07, while Springdale track star Payton Stumbaugh did it in 2012-14.

So, what about a four-peat?

No Arkansan has yet done that, but one got close. According to the official Gatorade Player of the Year records (which are not always 100% accurate), Tiffany Gunn won the award as a freshman, sophomore and senior:

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.55.02 AM

She won the award at two different schools, which is also impressive. Note she was a star athlete who ended up transferring in to Little Rock McClellan High, which is not something that has often happened in recent years.

 

 

20 Nov

In-depth Q&A Ronnie Brewer on Monks & Arkansas’ Future Recruiting

RonnieBrewerJr.com

The Razorback basketball program could not have tried harder to recruit Bentonville High superstar Malik Monk. On Wednesday, though, Monk announced he would go to Kentucky despite multiple Razorback ties through his brother Marcus Monk and cousin Rashad Madden. Now that he’s signed, what hope does Arkansas have of landing future five-star homegrown stars?

I discussed this topic and more with Ronnie Brewer, a friend of the Monks, in a phone interview right after he’d talked to Malik and Marcus Monk on Wednesday. Sign up below to a get a transcript of the entire  interview and to be notified of future posts – including exclusive interviews and commentary – at BestOfArkansasSports.com






 

20 Nov

Longtime Arkansas Sportscaster Mike Irwin Rails Against Marcus Monk

mike-irwin

In the wake of super recruit Malik Monk’s announcement he would sign with Kentucky, not Arkansas, there was much knashing of teeth and beating of breast among the Arkansas faithful.

No fan, follower or local outdid Razorback Nation analyst Mike Irwin, though, when it came to a show of flat-out passion. Irwin, dean of Arkansas sportscasters, walked into the Fayetteville studio of  the sports radio show The Forum on Wednesday and gave an instant classic of a jeremiad against the particular circumstances surrounding Malik’s decision.

Perhaps you will agree with Irwin’s sentiment below. Or, perhaps you flinch, and agree with KentuckySportsRadio.com’s Drew Franklin in dubbing it “a perfect, flawless, grumpy-old-man rant.” Whatever you think, you can’t deny the following transcript isn’t some seriously provocative radio:

On whether Arkansas fans are right to knash those teeth and beat those breasts: 

Mike Irwin: They’ll be fine because in my opinion they’re reacting the right way. You don’t tell fans what they’re supposed to do when a situation like this happens. I don’t want to be lectured by somebody if I’m a fan. You had a guy [Marcus Monk] who went to school here. He played for Arkansas and he had a brother that happened to be one of the top players in the country.

For two to three years he played the situation. Don’t tell me he didn’t play it; he got all kinds of favors done, wheels were greased. I don’t think anybody broke NCAA rules but favors were done. People helped because they wanted this kid to be a Razorback. You’re going to tell these people now, “Hey it’s okay, it’s all right, he just made a business decision. Oh he couldn’t come because there would be too much pressure. He hasn’t pressure like he’s going to see now. He’s nobody, he will become nobody to most Razorbacks.”

There will be a few out there that always have their nose in the air and walk around going, ‘Oh you’re just letting athletics get too big in your life. You need to stop and realize it’s his life.’

Yes it is his life. You know what he could have done from day one? He could have stood up and said, “Guess what people, I’ve enjoyed growing up in this state but I’m not going to college here so don’t do me any favors. I’m just going to play basketball here for the next two years but I’m letting you know right now I’m not coming. I will go out-of-state.’

If you do that you’ve got no problems, but when you sit here and benefit and benefit and benefit, and then you go, ‘I’m going to go play for this guy over here that’s running a pro team on a college level.’

There is no words that can come out of my mouth that would more express contempt for John Calipari and what he’s done. The only people I’m madder at is the NCAA for allowing this to happen. It is a joke; it is a joke to come up with these APR rules and all these graduation program plans you have to follow…. [Irwin goes on to explain why he dislikes the NBA’s “one-and-done” allowance for college players to enter the draft, and why he hates pro sports]

On the old days, before pro sports became such big money: 

When you grew you became a man and you got a job… I’m so old that when I was a kid pro football players didn’t make the kind of money they make now. The college guys were the big shots.

A lot of college guys could make more money after they got their degree going out becoming lawyers and engineers. Somehow it got huge and it turned everything into money. It turned a game I love, which is college football, into a money thing with everybody. A part of that is just anger over that…

Back to Malik Monk:

As far as Monk, as far as I’m concerned the good kid knew all along this what he was going to do and everybody got played. That’s the part that is disgusting. Not that you don’t have a right to do that, you do. You have a right to go to whatever school you want to, it’s your life – but be freaking honest about it. Tell people, “This is where I’m going. This is what I’m going to do.”

None of this “Oh we’re going to move Northwest Arkansas because that’s a better situation at home. You’ve got to help me with my AAU tournaments and all this stuff and then [juicy mouth sound] we’re gone.”

Still more anger at the current system:

As I said before I’m more angry at the NCAA than I am at Calipari. I’m angry at him because you don’t like somebody taking something like that and turning it into trash. But they’ve allowed that to happen.

Bobby Knight said this five or six years ago – this is garbage. There’s a way to stop this. The NCAA could step in and say, “We will penalize any school that has a one and done a scholarship.” You have a guy that comes in one year and jumps at the NBA you lose the scholarship the next year. Kentucky would be out of business in two or three years if they did that.

They could do that; why haven’t they done it? They have gone on record as saying, “We’re all about you going and being a student athlete. We’re all about you going to school and getting your degree.” At least stay three years which is what baseball is. With baseball you can leave after three years. A lot of these baseball players virtually have their degree in three years, if they don’t they’re close. That if you go in and you don’t make it through the minor league system, they’ll even come back and pay for you to go back to school for whatever’s left so you can get that degree. You can look at that and at least justify.

What is this? This is a mockery of college athletics. It’s also this whole issue of you’re going to sit here and accept favor after favor after favor from people and keep them hanging. “Well you know I’m not sure what I’m going to do.” This goes on for three years and all of a sudden it’s just, “Sorry, too much pressure. I’m going to leave, go out-of-state.

 

I think Mike Irwin is being pretty harsh here. I know, for instance, Malik Monk was very open from the beginning about his intention of becoming an NBA superstar and I think it would have hurt the Hogs even more if had announced as a high school sophomore he wouldn’t attend the University of Arkansas no matter what. I doubt  he even knew for sure at that point.

Second of all, if he did and he announced that – without even giving Arkansas to first seriously recruit and host him  –  Hog fans would be even more angry at him than they are now. An announcement  like that from Malik in his 10th grade year would have hurt Arkansas’ recruiting efforts for longer than that the announcement in his 12th grade year.


Read the second part of Mike Irwin’ Jeremiad for the Ages here.

27 Oct

Glen Rice is No. 2 Among Top 50 NBA Arkansan Scorers Ever

Having grown up in Little Rock, AR as a hardcore basketball fan, I have always enjoyed finding out about about the different connections NBA/ABA players have with my state. That process of discovery is a gradual one. I remember standing inside the Dunbar Community Center in downtown Little Rock (by the junior high Joe Johnson attended) and marveling that the place had been a stomping grounds for an NBA No. 4 overall pick most Arkansas basketball fans have never heard of.

I’ve long praised the greatest dunkers* in Arkansas history, but only yesterday learned about a high flying  UAPB alum whose nickname was “Helicopter.” That would be the 6’5″ Charles Hentz, who fittingly enough played for the ABA’s Pittsburgh Condors. In November 1970 game, he did something no ABA/NBA baller had or ever will do again.

I’ll let eyewitness Ken Marsh explain:

“Charlie Hentz quickly drove to the basket, soared, and threw down a vicious one-hand dunk, shattering the backboard. It happened so quickly it Peeplestook everyone’s breath away. The sound was akin to a shotgun blast when the rim gave way and the glass exploded. A Cougars forward named George
Peeples was trying to get the shards of glass out of his Afro.”

An hour later, with the demolished glass backboard now replaced by a wooden one,  the game resumed. But near the end of the game, after the teams had switched side, Hentz found another open path and released his fury.

“The crowd was absolutely stunned that Hentz had destroyed a second glass backboard on top of the first one,” Marsh told RememberTheABA.com. “The refs, the Carolina coach, and the Pittsburgh coach Pittsburgh then conferred about what they should do. Pittsburgh was down by about 14 points at the time of Hentz’s second “demolition,” so their coach graciously decided to call the game.”

That’s rich, right?

Here’s some more gold-encrusted factoid:  Shawn Marion, as in the Matrix Shawn Marion who was a four-time All Star, is listed as growing up in Clarksville, Tennessee. But it turns out he spent a significant time with relatives in the Dermott, Arkansas area and apparently played some junior high basketball there.

And then there’s the absolute motherlode of NBA Arkansan esoterica, which was unearthed in Saline County about a month ago. It turns out Glen Rice is actually from Arkansas. Yep, just another three-time NBA All-Star and NCAA Tournament MVP who everybody assumed was from Michigan (because all official records state him as being from Flint, Michigan) but actually grew up in Benton until the age of nine or so.

Rice is already known as one of the many stars to come out of Flint, my friend Nate Olson wrote for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. “Now, he wants to be grouped with Arkansas NBA standouts Sidney Moncrief, Scottie Pippen and Derek Fisher, his Lakers teammate.”

Well, well. I’m glad I know Rice’s true origin because his inclusion has a significantly effect on my latest  edition of all-time, NBA Arkansans. By “Arkansan,” I mean someone who was either born in the state or played here in college. That’s why you will see Rice mixed with Lee Mayberry (a Tulsa native, but Razorback star) below:

NBA Arkansans Career Points Leaders

Player Points Points Per Game Years in NBA Birthplace
1 Scottie Pippen 18940 16.1 17 Hamburg
2 Glen Rice 18336 18.3 15 Jacksonville
3 Joe Johnson 18326 17.3 14 Little Rock
4 Joe Barry Carroll 12455 17.7 10 Pine Bluff
5 Sidney Moncrief 11931 15.6 11 Little Rock
6 Archie Clark 11819 16.3 10 Conway
7 Paul Silas 11782 9.4 16 Prescott
8 Alvin Robertson 10882 14 10 Barberton, OH
9 Derek Fisher 10713 8.3 18 Little Rock
10 Fat Lever 10433 13.9 11 Pine Bluff
11 Caldwell Jones 10241 7.9 17 McGehee
12 Corliss Williamson 9147 11.1 12 Russellville
13 Wil Jones 8482 11.7 9 McGehee
14 Michael Cage 8278 7.3 15 West Memphis
15 Eddie Miles 8120 13.4 9 North Little Rock
16 Mike Conley 7778 13.4 8 Fayetteville
17 Darrell Walker 6389 8.9 10 Chicago
18 Ron Brewer 5971 11.9 8 Fort Smith
19 Todd Day 5917 12.3 8 Decatur, Ill
20 Nathaniel Clifton* 5444 10 8 Little Rock
21 Bryant Reeves 4945 12.5 6 Fort Smith
22 Joe Kleine 4666 4.8 15 Colorado Springs, CO
23 Andrew Lang 4431 6 12 Pine Bluff
24 Jim McElroy 4120 9.9 7 Cotton Plant
25 Jim Barnes 3997 8.8 7 Tuckerman
26 Ronnie Brewer 3940 7.8 8 Portland, OR
27 Oliver Miller 3625 7.4 9 Fort Worth
28 Fred Jones 3206 7.5 7 Malvern
29 Jannero Pargo 3175 6.4 11 Chicago
30 Lee Mayberry 2546 5.1 7 Tulsa
31 Tony Brown 2163 6 7 Chicago
32 Charles Jones 1826 2.5 15 McGehee
33 Pete Myers 1804 4.8 9 Mobile, AL
34 Scott Hastings 1647 2.8 11 Independence, KS
35 Major Jones 1643 4.4 6 McGhee
36 Patrick Beverley 1369 8.9 3 Chicago
37 James Anderson 1243 6.3 4 El Dorado
38 Keith Lee 1114 6.1 3 West Memphis
39 Sonny Weems 1082 7.7 3 West Memphis
40 Jeff Martin 956 6.7 2 Cherry Valley
41 Jeremy Evans 806 3.7 5 Crossett
42 Quincy Lewis 567 3.6 4 Little Rock
43 Bob Burrow 459 5.7 2 Malvern
44 Archie Goodwin 425 4.6 2 Little Rock
45 Dean Tolson 402 5 3 Kansas City, MO
46 Jasper Wilson 366 5.2 2 Camden
47 Jimmy Oliver 331 4.2 5 Menifee
48 Jeff Taylor 179 3.2 2 Blytheville
49 Mel McGaha 176 3.5 1 Bastrop, LA
50 Cory Carr 171 4.1 1 Fordyce

NB: This is “only” the top 50 of the 70 NBA Arkansans I have in my database. In the coming weeks, I’ll be release more of these for different categories, so stay tuned. Sign up for my newsletter and you can make sure to get them.

* Speaking of great dunkers from the state, Bentonville High senior Malik Monk makes a strong case as the best of the best. Here’s a pic of him and LeBron James, courtesy of the Arkansas Wings’ Ron Crawford.

malik monk and lebron james

A current superstar by a future one?

 

 

30 Jul

Will Kentucky Still Have Room for Malik Monk in Spring 2016?

 

Looking ahead to potential issues in 2016-17

 

Increasingly more experts consider the class of 2016 to be a strong contender for best basketball class of modern times. Take it from Jerry Meyer, the Director of Basketball Scouting for 247Sports: “This is an unbelievable class. In the time that I’ve been doing this, which is since 2004, I would have to say this is the best class I’ve scouted. Now, we’ll see how it all pans out. The 2004 and 2007 classes* have always stood out to me as strong classes, but I think I would take this one over them.”

In the frontcourt are studs like Harry Giles, Thon Maker and Josh Jackson, but it is through the backcourt that this class could truly separate itself from the pack. The class features every conceivable kind of guard, from pass-first (e.g. Lonzo Ball) to score-first (Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons [with a first name like that, what do you expect?]) to those who have been doing both with equal aplomb (Dennis Smith and De’Aaron Fox). No matter the skill set, though, the top c/o ’16 guards are almost all blessed with the kind of good size and athleticism which translates well to the next levels.

Unsurprisingly,  Kentucky is after many of these guys. More surprisingly, Arkansas fans should care.

Kentucky coach John Calipari has extended 23 scholarship offers to ’16 players,  which is three more than what UK offers on average, per 247Sports. In its crosshairs are Kobi Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith, De’Aron Fultz and, of course, Malik Monk – the Arkansas native and hands-down most important Razorback basketball recruit of the 21st century.

I recently wrote a 6,000 word SB Nation Longform piece about Malik’s recruitment. In it, I discuss why he and his brother are at the cutting edge of the way today’s rising stars increasingly brand themselves as a way control their own assets and platforms. As Jerry Meyer sees it, this kind of business savvy, combined with a refined basketball IQ on the whole, is a major reason this class appears so special. “These guys are very aware – or more aware than players in the past – of what it takes to be an NBA player… there is more of a professional approach to the game with these guys.”

I also write about why and how Malik Monk is considered the most exciting and athletic of the bunch. One high major assistant coach told me what separates him from the other athletic ’16 guards is that he has the physical build of a sprinter or long jumper. That is, if Malik Monk wanted to, he could train to be an Olympic track star. “He’s very gifted. He’s retardedly athletic. ” class of 2016 super recruit player Harry Giles told me. “When you’re that gifted and you can score, it’s not hard” to be great.

Most recruiting outlets rank Monk as the fourth or fifth-best player in the class of 2016. Wherever he goes after his planned announcement in spring 2016, he will of course expect to play. A lot. As he should.  But the other guards in his class are also very competitive.

This sets up an interesting scenario.

If some of the other ’16 super-guards announce they are going to Kentucky this fall/winter or sign during the early signing period, it could set up a very crowded projected backcourt at the UK for 2016-17, one with a minimum of three or four four-star or five-star guards returning for 2016-17 or signed.  Could that be a factor in Monk saying “no” to Kentucky (something Razorback fans obviously want)?

I threw questions along these lines out to Ben Roberts of The Lexington-Herald-Leader, who has about as good as insight into UK recruiting dynamics than any recruiting reporter. The first question was who and how many of the UK guards he thought would commit first:

Aside from the class of 2016 recruits, we also discussed the likelihood of currently enrolled UK top guards like Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe and Jamal Murray returning for 2016-17.

And there is one more player listed as four-star guard who would be a sophomore in 2016-17:

Additionally, Kentucky has yet another four-star guard in shooter Mychal Mulder – a junior college All-American – who would be a senior in 2016-17. A projected  backcourt of Ulis, Simmons,  Fultz, Mulder and sometimes Matthews would be pretty loaded, and would likely become downright top-heavy were one of the c/o 2015 guards not go pro.

Sure, as Roberts points out, Calipari would make space for Monk if he waited till April to announce he was joining the Big Blue party. And many believe Monk would get more playing time than most if not all these players. But the question is how much playing time he could possibly get on a backcourt which would be more talented and deep than most NBA teams’.

Monk’s head coach at Bentonville High School, Jason McMahan, told me that many of the players in the class of 2016 were not fond of the idea of playing in the “platoon system” Calipari unleashed at the start of the 2014-15. A unprecedentedly loaded UK backcourt  in 2016-17 would necessitate a platoon system to the extreme, because there is practically 0% chance any of these first-round NBA Draft aspirants are going to be cool with playing less than 12 minutes a game.

We’ll have to wait until spring 2016 to see exactly how loaded Kentucky’s 2016-17 backcourt will be, and how big of a factor that could play in Monk’s final decision.

 

 


 

* “The 2004 class had players like Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay, Al Jefferson, Al Horford, Josh Smith and J.R. Smith.

The 2007 group featured Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan. ” [Source: 247Sports.com]

04 Jul

Malik Monk, Kevin Durant & Purging the Top College List to Five

You'd be smiling, too, if you talked to Kevin Durant that much.After a relatively homebound June, July is heating up for the top sports recruit in the state of Arkansas. Bentonville High senior Malik Monk is hitting the road for multiple showcases and tournaments while fielding questions about whose college’s fans he will eventually overjoy.

Last week Monk was at the Nike Basketball Academy in California, where he told reporter Sheila Mikailli he will announce his Top 5 schools in the weeks following the Peach Jam on July 8-12. That South Carolina-based tourney has in the last few years become the summer circuit’s most competitive basketball event as the championship round of Nike’s highly competitive Elite Youth Basketball League.

He and his older brother/mentor Marcus Monk haven’t tipped their hand toward any specific school, but it’s difficult to believe programs like Arkansas and Kentucky won’t make Monk’s Top 5 cut.  Monk knows the Hog program inside and out, not only through his brother and cousin Rashad “Ky” Madden – both former Razorbacks – but also through friends like Bobby Portis, a former Arkansas Wings star. Monk told me he talks to Portis about twice a week.

As far as Kentucky goes, Malik’s stated goal is to be an NBA superstar. He’s a guard. Kentucky specializes in producing star NBA guards. The reasoning for inclusion here is hard to argue. Indeed,  when in the last few years has a Top-10 guard offered a scholarship by Kentucky not put the Wildcats in his Top 5?

Here’s the rest of Mikailli’s interview with the nation’s top-ranked shooting guard in the class of 2016:

Q: What are you looking for in a school? What’s going to be the “it” factor for you?

A: Coaches – just pushing me hard off the court. Good teammates and, really, just chemistry.

Q: I know a lot of people have talked about your brother and how he’s helped you through this process. But you’re out here right now with a lot of NBA guys and some college guys. Have they given you any advice about the recruiting process?

A: Not really, I haven’t talked to any about it. But I know some can help me with it, so I might ask a couple questions.

Q: Are there any guys in the NBA who you’re close with, that you talk with even if isn’t about recruiting?

A: KD. Yeah, I talk to him a lot.

Q: What have you been working on with your game this summer?

A: Just being a lockdown defender and more efficient.

Q: Whichever team you choose, what do you think you can bring to them?

A: Energy, leadership …. and a lot of scoring.

Q: You’re at the Nike Basketball Academy. Obviously, Nike shoes are a big thing. I want to know: what are your favorite shoes to rock on and off the court?

A: On the court, I like the Kyries and Kobes. But off the court, I like Jordans. That’s how I roll. I like the 11 lows or the 11s.

Q: Who do you think in the League has the best shoe game?

A: Hmmmm [studied paused]. JR Smith [knowing nod].

Q: Oh.. Oh, OK. What is one movie you never get tired of watching?

A: The Purge

Q: Who are the top three guys in your [music] playlist right now?

A: Kevin Gates, Lil Bibby and Lil Herb.

Q: Finally, if you could build your own dream team – taking guys from the NBA, college, AAU, wherever – who would be your team?

A: KD, LeBron James, Kobe, Blake Griffin and Anthony Davis.

Q: You wouldn’t be on it?

A: [Smile] I don’t need to be on it.

 

13 Mar

Malik Monk vs Corliss Williamson, Keith Lee & Willy Cutts

Malik Monk’s 35 points per game average so far this postseason is on track to likely be the most impressive in state history.

I looked at the post season performances of Joe Johnson, Ronnie Brewer, Corliss Williamson and KeVaughn Allen for Sporting Life Arkansas and found none of them have come close to the sheer, terrifying scoreboard deluge Monk is currently unleashing. Big Nasty came closest in his senior year at Russellville by pouring in 29.7 ppg in the state tournament.

Out of burning, insatiable, Arkan-nerdified curiosity, I also want to know how the old-school greats compare here. The closest comparison I could find to Monk, in terms of pure scoring ability, was Willy Cutts, a McDonald’s All-American from Bryant by way of Conway by way of Little Rock. Cutts played on one of the first Arkansas Wings AAU teams, and once dropped 66 points on a north Louisiana squad led by future NBA All-Stars Joe Dumars and Karl Malone, according to Billy Woods’ indispensable “60-0: The West Memphis Basketball Dynasty.”

In the 1980 state tournament, Cutts, as a sophomore, averaged 33.5 points in his two games before bowing out to West Memphis. Keith Lee and Michael Cage were West Memphis’ headliners and the main engines to their historic 60-0 run. Lee was the more polished scorer of the two, but never had to be the postseason scoring monster Monk has become.

Among scorers at the highest classification who lead their teams to the title game, it appears LR Central’s Fred Allen is Monk’s closest all-time parallel. In the 1972 state tournament, the 6’2″ scoring guard racked up 28 points against Jonesboro, 36 points on North Little Rock, 31 points on Parkview and 30 points against El Dorado for the AAA-AAAA crown.

Based on the official AAA records, it’s unlikely any big schooler has averaged above Allen’s 31.25 ppg in a three-game-or-more postseason run. All the more impressive given the top shooters of this era didn’t have the three point shot.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 12.33.20 PM

Honorable mentions goes to Allen’s top rival of the era: Parkview’s Dexter Reed.

Reed was a force of nature in his own right and as a sophomore in 1971 averaged 29 ppg in a four-game postseason stretch – including a then-record 43 points in a state title game against Helena. He doesn’t appear to have topped that in his next two postseasons.

Perhaps I missed some all-time great scorers here. For instance, it’s possible big schoolers like LR Catholic Chris Bennett or Scipio Jones’ Eddie Miles deserve mention, too. I just haven’t been able to find their postseason numbers.

Give me hell if I’m missing someone obvious.

 

** Above, I didn’t look at the schools that haven’t been in the state’s top two largest classifications. Most postseason scoring records do belong to players from smaller schools.

N.B. Sidney Moncrief was an outstanding prep baller – averaging 19.2 points and 14.1 rebounds his senior year in high school – – but he didn’t explode for 30 points often in the postseason. Hall’s 6’9″ center Gary Tidwell also led the team in scoring a lot. Also, I haven’t forgotten about Ron “Boothead” Brewer and Marvin Delph. They are coming soon…

 


 

*Statistical Lagniappe!*

Keith Lee / West Memphis

 

1980 state tournament (as a junior)

West Memphis 60; Jacksonville 43 (15 points)

West Memphis 83; Conway 63 (30 points)

West Memphis 57; Forrest City 49 (21 points)

[West Memphis played two additional postseason games to win the now-defunct Overall State Championship between each classification’s champion]

 

1981 state tournament (as a senior)

West Memphis 55; Russellville 37 (18 points)

West Memphis 66; Hot Springs 47 (15 points)

West Memphis 79; Conway 58 (27 points)