All-Arkansas Preps basketball teams:

Nothing sneaky

Monk living up to expectations

By: Troy Schulte
Published: Sunday, April 6, 2014
Bentonville's Malik Monk is the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Sophomore of the Year for 2014.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Bentonville's Malik Monk is the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Sophomore of the Year for 2014.

Malik Monk wasn’t sure just how good he was until last summer.

That’s when he started seeing his name pop up among the national rankings for the recruiting class of 2016, and his was near the top of almost every one of them.

A change of scenery prior to his sophomore season brought with it an uptick in competition, but little else changed for Monk in his first season at Bentonville High School. He may have made the move from Class 2A to Class 7A, but he was still one of the best players on the floor.

The sophomore averaged 22.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while leading the Tigers in steals (41) and three-pointers made (70) during a season that produced numerous highlight-reel plays that made their way around the internet.

“It kind of snuck up on me,” Monk said of his status as one of the country’s top guards and most sought-after recruits. “My ability God gave me, jumping high and all of that, it really snuck up on me.”

The All-Arkansas Preps sophomore of the year isn’t sneaking up on anyone anymore after what he’s accomplished during the summers as a member of the Arkansas Wings AAU team and what he did this past season at the state’s largest high school.

Two months after his 16th birthday, the 6-4 guard is already ranked by Rivals.com and ESPN.com as a five-star prospect. ESPN.com ranks him the seventh-best overall player in the class of 2016, while Rivals ranks him 12th. Arkansas, Baylor, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Kansas and Memphis have offered scholarships already.

“He’s not like any player I’ve coached,” Bentonville Coach Jason McMahan said. “He’s a different kind of player in talent and skill.”

McMahan had heard of Monk’s exploits before last summer, and he may have seen him play in a seventh-grade tournament three years ago. But the only time he remembered seeing Monk play before last season was when the Wings won a 16-and-under AAU national championship last summer in a game that was televised by ESPN.

He was impressed with what he saw, and Monk lived up to expectations after he arrived at Bentonville. He slid seamlessly among teammates he didn’t know on the way to becoming the Tigers’ leading scorer.

McMahan saw Monk make 11 three-pointers while scoring 43 points in a January victory over Siloam Springs, then make consecutive three-point buzzer-beaters to defeat rivals Springdale and Fayetteville in the span of four days. Videos from those games have been watched more than 67,000 times on YouTube.

“You just knew you were seeing something special,” McMahan said.

A month later in the Class 7A state tournament, McMahan watched Monk sneak behind a couple of Cabot defenders to finish with a one-handed alley-oop dunk.

Monk, though, wasn’t fazed by anything he did this past season.

“I’m used to doing things like that,” he said. “It wasn’t really a highlight play. It was me making a basketball play that I’m capable of.”

McMahan attributes part of that attitude to Monk’s older brother, Marcus, a former Arkansas football and basketball player who was drafted by the Chicago Bears.

Marcus Monk, who lives in Fayetteville and is attending graduate school at the University of Arkansas, said he led an effort that moved Malik and their mother Jackie from Lepanto to Bentonville for a few reasons. One was so his mother Jackie could find better employment opportunities, but he also wanted to help Malik find better competition on the floor while helping with his maturation on and off the court.

Marcus Monk, 27, has taken on the role of adviser for any matter his younger brother needs help with, including the soon-to-be full-throttle recruiting process. Malik has yet to complete his sophomore year, and according to NCAA rules college coaches cannot contact recruits directly until June 15 prior to their junior year. Coaches can visit schools, attend practice or call McMahan. McMahan can call Marcus, who relays the information to his brother.

Marcus and Malik both said there is no timetable on when he’d like to decide on a college, and Marcus Monk wants his little brother to keep his mind off that part of his life as much as possible.

“I want to take as much off of him as I can,” Marcus Monk said. “The main thing, I want him to enjoy playing ball and being a 16-year-old. I told him, ‘When you’re ready to start actually seeing a school and where you best fit, you come to me.’ ”

In the meantime, Malik Monk will play this summer for the 17-and-under Arkansas Wings, then spend his next two seasons getting stronger while fine-tuning his footwork and ball handling.

“I really don’t see any area of his game that’s tapped out,” McMahan said. “He can be as great as his determination will let him be.

“He’ll continue to improve until he’s 30 years old, probably.”

Malik Monk glance

SCHOOL Bentonville CLASS Sophomore POSITION Guard HEIGHT 6-4 AGE 16 (born Feb. 4, 1998) FAMILY Mother: Jackie; brother: Marcus NOTEWORTHY Monk led Bentonville in scoring (568 points), three-pointers made (70), free throws made (120) and steals (41). ... He averaged 22.8 points per game as a freshman at East Poinsett County before transferring to Bentonville last summer. ... He scored 30 points in a semifinals loss to North Little Rock in the Class 7A state tournament.

Sports, Pages 27 on 04/06/2014

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