Malik Monk brings confidence, athleticism to UK

Men’s basketball media day

Chris Angolia

When people think of UK guards, one thing that usually comes to mind is physicality and athleticism, and Coach John Calipari looks to have another one of his prototypical guards in the form of 6’3” Malik Monk.

Monk, an Arkansas native, has drawn numerous comparisons to the likes of Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook because of his explosive style of play, something that the Cats did not exactly have last year. 

The athleticism that Monk brings to the table can very easily be attributed to his family background which includes numerous athletes. Monk’s brother, Marcus spent time in the NFL as a wide receiver after playing both football and basketball at Arkansas, and his cousin and uncle also played division one sports.

With Monk being a critical piece in the UK backcourt in 2016, it is the overall balance of his game that demands attention. And that balance was put on display at the McDonald’s All-American game where winning the three-point contest and finishing second in the dunk contest.

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After racking up all of these accolades and comparisons over his final year in high school, Monk brings another dimension to his game, and that is the confidence that he has in both himself and his teammates, especially fellow guards, De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe.

“I think I can fit well, because I am more of a scorer than both of them. I shoot more then both of them too, so we will all fit in very well with each other,” Monk said of the trio.

The UK backcourt is something that has brought a lot of hype with it especially during the summer sessions and early scrimmages. The hype that has been brought can be looked at mainly in part due to the group’s versatility, and Monk looks to be the most versatile of the three guards.

With the comparisons to Westbrook and other swiss-army knife guards, it would have been very easy for Monk to struggle early on in camp, but things have pointed in the opposite and even Evan Daniels of has seen what Monk has been able to do so far.

“Word out of Kentucky is that freshman Malik Monk is surpassing expectation early on. Shooting ball better than in high school,” Daniels tweeted.

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If Monk is able to consistently hit his jump shots, he would be true to his word when talking about how he is more of a scoring guard compared to Fox and Briscoe. 

Although it sounds as if that would be a bad thing for the Cats, it will always be nice for a team with a ton of talent like UK does this year to have a guy like Monk who talked about being the team’s primary scorer especially in crunch time.

“I mean if it comes down to it yeah, I think so,” Monk said about being the primary scorer. “I can (take a shot in crunch-time), I think that will be me.”

Having a guy with the confidence of Monk will be just another added dimension of this year’s squad and that dimension could prove to be crucial to the team’s success come March.