Monk Rejoins Razorbacks

The University of Arkansas basketball team adds Marcus Monk, one of the state's best high school basketball players ever who went on to have a record-setting career for the football Razorbacks.

The lure of dunking on someone again is just too much to give up if there is still some time on the clock.

That's one of the reasons that former University of Arkansas football star Marcus Monk began donning a Razorback basketball jersey and took part in practice on Thursday.

"I am just going to try and get my feet wet and get into the flow of things," said Monk, who has one semester of athletic eligibility left. "Whatever the coach needs me to do. The guys have welcomed me with open arms and that's all I can ask for. I am going to give them 100 percent."

The 6-6, 220-pound senior – the school's career leader wide receiver with 27 touchdown catches and a seventh round pick of the Chicago Bears – was the state's high school basketball player of the year back in 2004 after a brilliant season at East Poinsett County.

The 22-year-old Monk, who played 83 minutes in 10 UA hoop games as a true freshman back in 2005, has Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey intrigued.

"I think it will take some time (to see what he can do)," Pelphrey said. "I'm interested in seeing how it goes. We're probably not going to learn everything I need to know. It's going to be a process. He should be in uniform on Saturday (against visiting Stephen F. Austin). It definitely does not hurt having him out here."

Monk played both inside and outside for EPC, something he is also likely to do with the Razorbacks (7-1), who have just 10 scholarship players since they parted ways with junior college transfer Montrell McDonald.

"Versatility," Monk said when asked what he would bring to the team. "I know I have to be patient. Coach told me to be patient and just take in as much as I can each day as far as learning the sets. I am going to be patient, but I have to learn fast."

"..I can shoot, I can handle the ball, just whatever coach needs me to do," Monk said. "I can play down in the post and try to use my body and be physical as much as I can."

Former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson – who started looking at Monk in the 10th grade - told Pelphrey that he always thought Monk was a better basketball prospect than football one.

"He (Richardson) has always said that when he has seen me," Monk said. "He was here the last week and said the same thing. Nolan was recruiting me real tough when he was here so it is a real compliment."

Monk averaged 20.8 points, 16.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.8 blocks and 2.5 steals his senior season while leading his team to the Class AAA state title – something that also happen when he was playing high school basketball as a ninth grader.

He has always loved both sports, but notes there is a transition between the two and that it is more little stuff he will have to pick up than big stuff.

"It's the footwork from football to basketball," Monk said. "It's all the small things – how coach wants us to play defense, how he wants you to help. That's where a different coach may coach you different."

It's quite simple why Monk – who was being recruited by Arkansas and Kansas and other hoop programs out of high school - wants one more shot to play basketball.

"It's fun, it's fast-paced, it's up and down," Monk said. "It's an exciting game."

"It also a very exciting group and I think as the season goes along we are going to do nothing but get better," Monk added. "That is going to take a lot of hard work, but I know we can do it."

He has actually continued to play basketball on the intramural courts at Arkansas inside the HPER Building.

"I have always played, not as much as these guys are playing, but I never stopped playing," Monk said. "I am all-HPER. We were back-to-back intramural champs."

Monk actually thought about joining the basketball Razorbacks after getting cut by the Bears near the end of training camp.

But he took an offer from the New York Giants and by the time they released him it was too late to get enrolled in school for the first semester.

Both attempts were hampered by the fact that he was not fully healthy from a knee injury suffered that had him miss most of his junior season.

"I was thinking about coming back to school and really just taking a year off from football to get my knee better, lifting and everything," Monk said. "(UA strength and conditioning) Coach Kelly (Lambert) - he's my trainer so I was down here every day. The coaches came and said they would give me the opportunity to play and I could go to school. It was a win-win situation."

Monk, who was first academically in his EPC graduating class and has already earned his undergraduate degree, is preparing to take the Graduation Management Admission Test.

"I have to take the GMAT and it's a test that takes awhile to study for," Monk said. "While I am studying for it, I am going to take some finance and real estate classes."

He has hopes of still playing in the NFL and will assess his situation in the spring.

"I am just going to base it off how my leg is feeling and just how my body's feeling," Monk said.

"I feel like if my shoulder wouldn't came I would have played a lot longer, but I had to rest it," Monk said. "It was fun and a a great experience as well. A lot of those guys I had played AAU ball with when I was in high school."

Monk becomes the only senior on the team.

"I will just try to be a leader, same thing when I was playing football," Monk said. "Be myself and if somebody needs help, help them out as much as a I can."

"I am going to work hard," Monk said, "Hopefully by the time we start SEC play, I will be able to contribute in some kind of way."

He thinks that it is his lower body that needs the most work.

"I am getting there," Monk said. "It's about getting my lower body strong. It is going to take a lot for me to do consistently every day."

Monk has also just picked up another sport.

"I just picked up golf, too," Monk said. "It's not going too well right now, but I am working hard at it. (Tiger Woods) shouldn't be worried just yet."

Marcus Monk shoots a jumper during Thursday's practice.

Monk laughs while being interviewed by reporters on Thursday.

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