Whitt, Monk Put on Spectacular Shows

Arkansas signee Jimmy Whitt scores 42 points, grabs 10 rebounds, has six steals and dishes out 3 assists to lead Columba, Mo., Hickman to a 67-41 win over Arkansas Baptist in the opener of the ESPN 99.5 Classic while Bentonville junior Malik Monk pours in 45 in the nightcap as his team downs St. Louis Chaminade 86-77.

BENTONVILLE - Arkansas signee Jimmy Whitt got the chance to play before his future college coaches, teammates and fans Saturday night in the ESPN 99.5 Classic and he certainly didn’t disappoint any of them.

Whitt (6-3, 170) poured in 42 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, collected six steals and dished out three assists to lead his Columbia Hickman squad over Arkansas Baptist 69-41.

The Kewpies raced out to a 23-0 lead before Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson, assistant coach Melvin Watkins and members of this season’s No. 25 Razorback squad.

“Our thing is that first impressions are everything,” Whitt said. “We are from Columbia, Missouri and not too many know about us and they just knew that I had committed here.

“We talked in the locker room about how we wanted to come out strong and personally I wanted to come out and just make a good impression for the people that I am going to be playing for next season,” Whitt added.

In the nightcap of the event, Bentonville junior Malik Monk scored 45 points and 5 rebounds to lead his team to a 86-77 win over St. Louis Chaminade.

Jayson Tatum - the nation’s top 2016 player with Monk checking in at No. 5 per Scout.com - had 31 points and 18 rebounds for Chaminade with Anderson, Kentucky head coach John Calipari and Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg court side.

Whitt made a promise before the game to the Razorback players on hand.

“That was really cool because a lot of them had not gotten to see me play in person before,” Whitt said. “I talked to them before the game and told them I was going to try and do something, try to put on a show.”

Hickman ripped off a 23-0 start to the game and never looked back against a team that featured 7-1 freshman Connor Vanover, who ended up with 3 points and 10 rebounds.

“I thought we came out hot, we were getting open guys, we were making plays,” Whitt said. “And when we got the pressure on them, I think that really got the momentum going for us in the first quarter.”

Whitt, who had 29 points, 9 assists and 5 steals in his opener, showed Saturday night why he is a complete player according to his head coach David Johnson.

“He showed them pretty much everything,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen him do so much, but he really showed his perimeter game off tonight. He hit some big threes, can do so much athletically and that jump shot is so smooth. He elevates and has the release and everything. He is not a one dimensional kid.”

He is also a demon on defense as he has already set the school record for steals and is approaching 400.

“Four years for us and he is pushing toward 400 steals and that is a huge thing,” Johnson said. “You just don’t get that many steals without being a thinker out there and anticipating as well as just being a great defender.”

He obvious looks to be a fit for Arkansas, who he watched beat North Texas 89-71 on Friday night.

“Arkansas is playing great and I got to go to the game last night,” Whitt said. “it’s great. I can see myself easily being able to play with those guys getting up and down.

“They are really looking good, especially in transition on defense,” Whitt added. “And it is a team aspect that I really like, not just one person out there scoring. It is a whole team - guys putting up 12, 15 - four guys scoring that much each game.”

He is especially pleased with how Razorback sophomore walk on Manny Watkins - his best friend - is playing as he went into the weekend leading the SEC in steals.

“He is my best friend,” Whitt said. “Just to watch him succeed and knowing how hard he has worked is just so cool because I am going to be playing with him. We have been playing with each other since the second grade and to be able to play with your best friend (in college), not everybody gets to do that.”

Whitt signed with Arkansas on Nov. 12, the first day of the week-long early signing period.

“The signing day was the most exciting day of my life even more than when I committed,” Whitt said. “Because when you sign you make it official. You sign the papers and you officially have the school that you can call your own.”

It was not a decision that was popular in Columbia, where the University of Missouri is located.

“There are obviously people that didn’t like the decision and they asked me why you did you make that decision, but there is also a lot of people that support me,” Whitt said.

He feels Arkansas has the best system for him.

“I think that is what impresses me about Arkansas is they like to get up and down,” Whitt said. “We play a little of the same way - we like to get up and down the court all game subbing guys in and out.

“I just try to get my hands on balls and I just use my long arms,” Whitt added. “That is really going to help me in the future to transition from high school to college - to be able to get up and down and play the same style.”

Whitt, the only starter back from a state runner-up squad, had 26 points in the first half as Hickman took a 40-13 lead at intermission.

“It’s a huge leadership role and I feel like they go as I go,” Whitt said. “I feel like when I come out playing like that - playing strong - I feel like it trickles down to them. I want to play hard, too, on the defensive end.”

Malik Monk

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