Kentucky landed its point guard of the future, De’Aaron Fox, last week. This week it added another guard to play alongside him. Malik Monk revealed on Wednesday, the final day of the early signing period for college basketball, that he will sign with the Wildcats.
Monk’s recruitment had long been framed as a battle between Kentucky and Arkansas, even though the Lepanto, Ark., native also took official visits to Oregon and Kansas. Monk’s brother, Marcus, played football and basketball at Arkansas from 2004–09, and his cousin, guard Rashad “Ky” Madden, completed his four-year career with the Razorbacks basketball team this spring.
Arkansas and coach Mike Anderson worked hard to try to keep Monk in The Natural State. In March several members of his team showed up to one of Monk’s high school games. “Everybody from the state wants him to come here," Marcus Monk told SI.com in May. "The fan support here is crazy.” Ultimately Monk elected to leave Arkansas to join one of the nation’s top programs.
“With so many great coaches and historical programs recruiting me it has really been a tough but fun process,” Monk wrote Wednesday. “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.”
At 6'3" and 185 pounds, Monk is an electric scorer who can line up at either guard position. He’s a terror in transition who can blow by defenders off the dribble, excels at attacking the basket and finishing once there and possesses deep range on his jump shot. “I describe myself as a guard,” Monk told SI.com in describing his position in May. “I play with the ball or off the ball.”
Monk garnered widespread attention last summer when he dropped 59 points in an Elite Youth Basketball League game and his superlative leaping ability makes for breathtaking mixtapes. As a junior at Bentonville (Ark.) High, where he transferred in 2013, Monk averaged 26.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 34.8% from three point range and led the Tigers to the class 7A state championship game. He currently is No. 4 in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, which incorporates data from several sources. The scouting service DraftExpress projects Monk as the No. 7 pick in the 2017 draft.
Monk’s decision elevates Kentucky over Duke for the top 2016 recruiting class in the country. He joins Fox and five-star power forwards Sacha Killeya-Jones, Edrice “Bam” Adebayo and Wenyen Gabriel. All of those players are ranked in the top 25 of the RSCI, with Monk, Fox and Adebayo in the top 10. Even by the Wildcats’ recent lofty standards, that is an incredibly talented haul.
In a year in which Duke seemingly began to rival Kentucky as the go-to destination for the nation’s top prospects—and landed the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 prospects, Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, according to the RSCI—Wildcats coach John Calipari offered a reminder that any angst over recent recruiting misses was probably misplaced. Kentucky has loaded up with A-listers at multiple positions.
It’s fitting that Kentucky added an elite guard the day after its backcourt trio led the Wildcats to a victory over Duke. Projecting Kentucky’s rotation in 2016–17 is difficult because multiple players, including Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe, could leave for the NBA. With Fox and Monk, though, the Wildcats’ will be set at both guard spots regardless of who sticks around as the two complement each other well.
Of course, Monk’s decision is a tough blow Arkansas.
After posting 27 wins and placing second in the SEC last season, the Razorbacks are projected to slip in 2015–16. SEC and national media members picked them to finish 11th in the conference. Landing Monk at least would have provided some optimism for 2016–17; instead the Razorbacks will have to hope a class that currently has four three-star prospects can make them more competitive.
Monk’s decision also means Arkansas has swung and missed on three of the four most recent recruits from the state who were ranked in the top 100 of the RSCI. Previously, class of 2012 guard Archie Goodwin picked Kentucky and class of 2015 guard KeVaughn Allen chose Florida. The outlier is class of 2013 power forward and current Chicago Bull Bobby Portis.
He tweeted the following shortly after Monk’s announcement:
I didn't need Kentucky to make it to the NBA but thats none of my business🐸☕️— Bobby BP Portis (@BPortistime) November 18, 2015