Wings 17 Ready For Challenge at Peach Jam
Bentonville’s Malik Monk will announce his top five in August, but he first try to lead his Arkansas Wings AAU basketball squad to a big July.
The Wings will open pool play Thursday at 8 a.m. CDT when they face Team Takeover in the 24-team Nike Peach Jam at the Riverview Park Activities Center in North Augusta, S.C.
Monk and his teammates went 12-5 in four different EYBL tournaments to qualify for the prestigious event, which is played just a few miles away from where The Masters is held.
“I didn’t feel like we were playing our best at the end of the spring, but we have had 14 practices in the last eight days and I think we are back to where we need to be,” Wings head coach Charles Baker said.
“Part of that is that we had been settling for jump shots and while we are a good jump shooting team, it’s got to be about attacking the basket and getting to the rim with this team as well.
“All these practices lately have been kind of a boot camp and I think we are back to where we need to be and will have a real shot to compete for the championship.”
Monk, a consensus top 10 player nationally in the 2016 class, has averaged 19.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in EYBL action.
He has shot 47.2 percent from the field, 36.7 percent from 3-point range and 79.8 percent from the free throw line.
Monk had 19 points on Monday night while leading the Wing’ 17 squad to a 95-72 win over the Wings’ 16 team at Pulaski Academy.
“Malik has been nicked up lately and had a problem with his Achilles recently, but he has gotten treatment and that has come around,” Baker said. “You can see it coming back for him.”
Arkansas has offered both Monk and Van Buren forward Mitchell Smith (6-10, 215) and Baker notes the Razorbacks also recently offered Little Rock Southwest Christian Academy forward Eric Curry (6-8, 210) as well.
Smith, who has offers from Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Creighton among others, has struggled this summer while averaging 4.0 points and 4.1 rebounds for the Wings.
He has hit 21-of-45 field goals and 18–of-25 free throws in EYBL games.
“Mitchell has really had an up and down season for us where he will have some great moments and then just disappear,” Baker said. “I think these last group of practices have been great for him.
“I can see him really coming along and mixing it up more and I expect he is going to finish off this summer strong.”
Curry has been solid this summer as evidenced by his 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 52.9 percent from the field and 76.2 percent from the free throw line.
“He is a guy that is just getting a lot of interest after how he has played this spring,” notes Baker, who is also Curry’s prep coach. “Arkansas has offered him recently and he has gotten some many offers recently I haven’t been able to keep up with them all.”
The Wings squad also includes 6-3 Fayetteville guard Payton Willis (8.8), 6-1 Southwest Christian guard Tyrik Dixon (7.8), 6-7 Louisiana product Jalen Johnson (8.5, 5.2) and Pulaski Academy shooting guard and recent Tulsa commit Lawson Korita 4.7) among key contributors.
Willis, who has an offer from Belmont, had 25 points in one game earlier this season.
“Payton is one of those guys that has a great jump shot, but also settles for it too much at times,” Baker said. “We have been emphasizing to him that he needs to get to the rim more, something he is very good at doing.”
The Peach Jam continues through the weekend with the championship game slated for 2 p.m. on Sunday on ESPN.
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