When the 2017 NBA Draft finally gets underway one of the draft’s biggest mysteries is where Kentucky guard Malik Monk will go. For the most part Monk is a consensus top 10 pick with the one exception being ESPN, who as of June 19 had him going at 11 to the Charlotte Hornets. As for everyone else, no one can seem to agree on where he’ll actually go in the top 10. Heavy has him going to the Dallas Mavericks at 9, The Ringer and CBS Sports both have him going to the Knicks at 8 and NBA.com has him going the earliest, with Monk headed to Orlando at the 6 spot.
Yet regardless of where he goes, there is little doubt that Monk could be a game changer for whatever franchise drafts him. Despite being slightly under-sized for the two guard spot, he does have the potential to become a solid NBA point guard and will always have the ability to get hot and drop 20 in a half.
Monk is a player with a solid pedigree, a foundation that began long before he chose the University of Kentucky over the University of Arkansas. That background will no doubt help him succeed at the next level, regardless of where that may be.
Here’s what you need to know about Malik Monk.
1. Monk Grew Up in the Small Town of Lepanto, Arkansas
Monk was born on February 4, 1998 in Jonesboro, Arkansas and grew up in Lepanto, a small town about 150 miles east of Little Rock. Lepanto is a small town, the population hovers around 2,000 people. He was raised primarily by his mother and his brother Marcus, who is 12 years older than him.
During his time at Bentonville High School in Bentonville, Arkansas Monk was a stud on the basketball team. As a senior he averaged 28.6 points, 4.4 assists and 7.6 rebounds a game. The season ended in disappointment though, as the team ended up losing in their championship game.
Monk earned his fair share of accolades while at Bentonville. He was named to the second team All-USA Boys Basketball team, was a Naismith All-American, a McDonald’s All-American and participated in the Jordan Brand Classic, where he shared Most Valuable Player honors with his future teammate at Kentucky De’Aaron Fox.
Monk took home the 2016 Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year, was named Mr. Basketball for the state of Arkansas and was named to the 2015-16 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team. By the time he was done, he was a 5 star prospect and some of the biggest and most successful basketball programs in the country were calling.
2. Monk’s Love for His Hometown is Best Expressed Via His Elaborate Tattoos
Monk grew up in an area of Lepanto known as “The Woods.” Monk has paid tribute to the area in a sprawling and geographically accurate tattoo that’s laid out across his chest. Just below his collarbone is “The WOODZ” and the spot where he learned how to dunk covers one of his pectoral muscles.
Monk’s love for his hometown isn’t limited to just his chest though. He also has “Lepanto 870” on his forearm. 870 is the town’s area code.
3. Despite a Strong Push by the University of Arkansas, Monk Elected to Play for the University of Kentucky
When it came time to pick a college, Monk received his fair share of pressure to stay home and play for the University of Arkansas, a school his older brother had attended and starred at. Arkansas’ coach Mike Anderson attended almost all of Monk’s games at Bentonville and tried his best to keep the prized recruit in the state.
Unfortunately Kentucky’s coach John Calipari was also at a lot of those games and despite both Oregon and Kansas also in the mix, Monk’s decision came down to Arkansas and Kentucky. He called the decision “the toughest decision I have made in my life,” but added that the recruiting process had “been a tough, but fun process.”
In the end Monk picked Kentucky in November of 2015, saying at the time that “Kentucky is a great fit for me and what I want out of my future,” Monk told ESPN. “I see myself being part of a great team full of potential and continuing to get better under Coach Cal.”
With Monk, as well as De’Aaron Fox, on board, Kentucky moved past Duke, having the number one recruiting class in 2016.
4. Monk Broke a Handful of Freshman Records in His One Season as a Wildcat
In only one year as Kentucky Wildcat Monk made his mark on both the school and the Southeastern Conference. He was a consensus pick for Second Team All-American, getting the nod from the Associated Press, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, The Sporting News and the National Association of Basketball Coaches and was a winner of the Jerry West Award, which is awarded to the countries’ top shooting guard.
Monk set a Kentucky freshman record in December 2016 when he scored 47 points in Kentucky’s win over the University of North Carolina at the CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas, a 103-100 victory for the Wildcats. When the 2016-17 season was over, Monk had set a freshman record for Kentucky, having scored 754 points. He was named the Southeastern Conference AP Player of the Year and the SEC Freshman of the Year, an award given out by the league’s coaches.
The season ended in heartbreak however, as Kentucky, a 2 seed in the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, was upset by UNC, a 5 seed, in the Elite Eight. Monk’s Kentucky team finished the 2016-17 season with a record of 32-6.
5. Monk’s Oldest Brother Marcus is One of His Biggest Supporters
One of the most influential people in Monk’s life is his older brother Marcus. The two have an incredibly close relationship even though Marcus is 12 years older than Malik.
“To me, when I think about what Marcus has done and their relationship, it’s more than just a brother,” Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne said. “It’s a mentor, a father figure, a big brother, a friend. The relationship encompasses a lot of different aspects. You can see why they’re so close, because Marcus is not just a ‘yes’ man. He’s pushing the kid to be great.”
When it comes to helping guide Malik’s career, either in college or after Thursday night at the professional level, Marcus is able to speak from experience. He was a two sport athlete at the University of Arkansas, primarily playing football, but also joining the basketball team once the season was over. A wide receiver in football, Marcus was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft, but was cut before the season started. He made stops with the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers before hanging up his cleats for good. After football he went over to Europe to play basketball in Germany, first for the Hertener Lowen and then the Gotha Rockets, who won the ProB League title in 2011. Marcus was named Eurobasket.com’s All-ProB Player of the Year.
Marcus earned his MBA from the University of Arkansas in 2014 and now organizes events in his home state that help Arkansas’ high school athletes get seen by college coaches.