By JACK LeGWINSpecial to ZAGSBLOGSUWANEE, Ga. — If one were to crown an MVP of the Nike Memorial Classic, Malik Monk would have to be at the top of the list.
A 6-foot-3, 175-pound freshman combo guard out of Lepanto (AR) East Poinsett County High School, Monk led the Arkansas Wings EYB to a 16U title with wins over Nike Team Florida, Texas Pro and Southern Stampede on the final day, averaging 17 points per game, and has solidified himself as one of the top players in the class of 2016.
One of the most offensively gifted players at the tournament, Monk showed off his explosiveness with a one-handed tomahawk posterization of a 6-9 center from Southern Stampede, as well as his ability to shoot off of the dribble, consistently nailing long range bombs all weekend long.
When asked about Monk and what he brings to the table, Arkansas Wings EYB coach Wes Swift praised Monk’s offensive skills.
“I don’t know where you start when you talk about Malik offensively,” Swift told SNY.tv. “He can beat you right, he can beat you left, he has a smooth stroke from three, as well as a fantastic mid range game, and we’ve all seen how well he can finish. He has a lot of maturity for his age.”
When Monk was asked about a particular explosive showcase against the Boca Raton Vipers in which he took off with the ball in both hands and then switched — in midair — to just his left and finished with finesse with his head at the rim, he just smiled like it was an every day occurrence.
“I was just trying to finish,” Monk admitted. “I wasn’t really trying to dunk and I was going to try to go with two hands at first, but he took away my right hand, so I had to finish with the left.”
Monk’s teammate for the Wings EYB, Skal Labissiere, who is a highly-ranked recruit in his own right, praised the guard’s athletic ability.
“Its so much fun to play with him.” Labissiere said. “He’s such a great athlete and it is really fun to watch him play.”
While he doesn’t have any official offers right now under his belt, the easygoing Monk just shrugged when it came to taking about schools.
“Arkansas has contacted me a little bit,” Monk said. “Florida has as well.”
Swift thinks that the wait won’t be long before his offer count picks up.
“It’s just a matter of time,” he said. “He’s young, and I see him going to a top 10 program in the country, but we won’t know really until the end of July about his offer count.”
Arkansas knows about Monk, just a matter of time before his name is a household one.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.