Monk's EPC vs. PA would be dream hoops matchup

Hawgs Illustrated's recruiting editor Dudley E. Dawson eyes a possible Saturday Class AAA state tournament prep hoops showdown between UA recruit Marcus Monk's East Poinsett County team and No. 1 Pulaski Academy in his latest column for HI and The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas.

Very rarely can a team post a 31-1 regular season mark and the enter the state tournament as an underdog to win it all, but that's just what future University of Arkansas football and basketball player Marcus Monk and his East Poinsett County squad are in a sense this week.

EPC Monk, the supremely gifted 6-6, 215-pound swingman and wideout, can embrace that role at this week's Class AAA tournament in Ozark because Pulaski Academy is considered the heavy favorite to win its third straight state crown.

The Bruins certainly deserve that nod considering they are 32-0 this season, have won their last 53 games, are ranked No. 1 overall in the state and in the top 25 nationally in three polls.

EPC has not lost to an in-state team this season with its only loss coming in the finals of the Jim Draper Classic in Overland Park, Kan., to host Blue Valley Northwest back in mid-December, a 69-67 defeat after which the Warriors have reeled off 26 consecutive wins.

That came despite 30 points and 20 rebounds from Monk, who was named the tournament's MVP despite his team not winning the event.

Those kind of numbers - and the fact that I have seen both teams play already this season - have me dreaming of watching a Saturday afternoon 2:30 p.m. semifinal clash between EPC and PA in Ozark.

While it is a dream match made for the Class AAA finals the next week at North Little Rock's Alltel Arena, that's not the way the brackets played themselves out so it is instead a potential Final Four matchup instead of the game for all the marbles.

"No doubt it's been talked about and it would be the game of the year in Arkansas," EPC head coach Kevin Kyzer said. "I would love to see because it would mean we have made the semifinals and would have gotten got past a very tough game. We are just taking it one game at a time. You have to at this stage."

Both teams have to win two games at the state tournament this week to make it happen with the Warriors (32-1) taking the first step on Tuesday afternoon by downing Drew Central 77-54.

Monk was very impressive with a stat-stuffing game that saw him pour in 20 points, grab 21 rebounds, dish out 7 assists, pick up 6 steals and block 5 shots in the win.

Drew Central actually led 29-26 at halftime before Monk and company raced away in the second half.

"He was incredible," EPC head coach Kevin Kyzer said of his star. "Look we are down 20 at halftime if he's not around, but then we got everybody going after halftime."

That win moves EPC into an 8:30 p.m. quarterfinal round game against the winner of today's 5:30 matchup between Lonoke and host Ozark.

So the Warriors either have to take down the home team in their own gym or try to keep from getting knocked out of the event a second straight year by Lonoke, which upset EPC in the semifinals of last year's event.

"The thing I like about the possible next two games is that it we we would be facing a team that put us out and we would have a little revenge working for us," Kyzer said. "Ozark put us out Marcus' ninth grade year, Pulaski Academy knock us out two years ago and Lonoke knocked us last year. So we've got those three in front of us now."

Pulaski Academy, a group of kids who resemble the ones from the movie Hoosiers, handled Farmington 74-37 on Tuesday afternoon and advanced to a Friday matchup against Wednesday's Dollarway-Mountain View winner.

"They are a great basketball team," Kyzer said. "I'm not breaking any news there. But I think we are pretty good, too."

While Pulaski Academy has at least three Division I prospect on its roster, Monk is the spotlighted player in this state and has been for the past two seasons.

A remarkable athlete, he is averaging 21 points, 14.2 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 5.3 steals this season.

"Those stats are even more incredible when you consider that a lot of times he has not played after the middle of the third quarter because we have had the mercy rule going," Kyzer said. "His scoring is down, but his assists are up. He draws so much attention and is such a great passer that we now have four kids averaging in double figures.

"I have told him I expect him to step up and take more shots now that we are at the end here," Kyzere added. "He's just a great kid and a great player."

That comes after a football season in which Monk, who played at 225, caught 72 passes en route to 1,074 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.

His senior season effort followed up a junior campaign where he hauled in 52 passes for over 1,000 yards and 18 touchdowns.

"He is the total package," East Poinsett Country head football coach Mark Courtnay said. "There are a lot of 6-6 guys that can run, but not many that have the lateral movement combined with his mind and the ability to make you miss."

Monk's brilliance is limited to just the court, proof of that coming in the fact that he has a 3.92 grade point average and is on course to be his school's valedictorian.

"You just can't say enough about him," Kyzer said. "He is just a phenomenal player and a great young man that it has been an absolute pleasure to coach and be around."

o o o

Arkansas' basketball team had two unofficial visitors in for Saturday's game in 6-8, 190-pound McGehee forward Michael Washington and 6-0 Kansas City (Mo.) Archbishop O'Hara point guard Marcus Walker.

Washington averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and 9 blocks this season and is being recruited by Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Texas among other schools.

"I think the strongest part of my game is my versatility in that I can play inside, but I can also shoot the ball pretty well from the outside," Washington said.

Washington, who has accepted an invitation to this year's Nike All-America Camp in Indianapolis, knows what he needs to improve on most.

"I need to get stronger and improve my ballhandling," Washington said. "I think I run the floor really well and have some good moves inside, but I need put on a little weight before I go to the next level."

Walker , who poured in 38 points the night while leading his team to a district tournament title the night before the Razorback game, is averaging 27 points per game.

That included one game in which he went off for 54, including 45 in the second half alone of the 91-86 double-overtime win against Kearney.

"We've had a great year," Walker said on his visit. "Hopefully we can keep it going. I've had a nice time while I've been here. I'm very impressed."

Arkansas, Kansas, Marquette , Oklahoma State, Oklahoma Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa are among the teams recruiting Walker.

o o o

The first of the Arkansas football program's two Junior Days happened last Saturday with the other planned for the Red-White game on April 3.

"It is a recruiting tool," Vaughn said. "It's an opportunity to get young men on your campus and to keep their interest going. You try to build as much of a relationship as you can in a couple of hours with the top recruits when they come in.

"You can just never get to quick of a start," Vaughn added. "Although I know we weren't, I had a feeling we were behind on juniors that first day. Everything is just accelerated and you just want to run, run, run, work, work, work and just get it done."

Among the players the Razorbacks are thought to be recruiting that were on hand for the first UA Junior Day were:

• SYLVAN HILLS: SS-OLB Hezekiah Smith (5-11, 200, 4.5)

• NORTH LITTLE ROCK: SS Jamar Love (6-2, 190, 4.41)

• LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL: WR Stewart Franks (6-2, 190, 4.6), FS Kevin Thornton (6-2, 180, 4.5), RB Mickey Dean( 5-11, 185, 4.5); LB Antwain Robinson (6-2, 221, 4.7)

• MALVERN: DL Brandon Bradford (5-10, 270, 5.2) • LITTLE ROCK MCCLELLAN: RB-DB Reginald Arnold (5-9, 215, 4.5), DB Corderro Mills, DB (5-9, 175, 4.5)

DUMAS: DB Robert Mingo (6-2, 180, 4.5) WACO, TEXAS: DE LeQuantum McDonald, (6-2, 230, 4.7); LB Shon Brown (6-0, 220, 4.5); DB Rashad Johnson (6-2, 180, 4.5)

SPIRO, OKLA: ATH Josh Walker (5-11, 175, 4.4)


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