Monk’s Time To Shine
Compared to other elite juniors, Malik Monk generated almost insignificant buzz this past season. The 6-4 guard at Bentonville (Ark.) High simply doesn’t play in a media-saturated area and didn’t compete for a stacked team, largely excluding him from the conversation.
But certainly we didn’t forget about him, and neither have the college coaches on his trail. Leading the Arkansas Wings at The Warmup, Monk proved why he’s a top-five prospect and led his squad to the tournament title.
When Monk begins to make an impact on national television, the first clichés announcers fling in his direction will be “explosive scorer” and “freak athlete.”
And that’s fine, because those superlatives do provide a general framework by which to describe his game. But there’s much more to him than that, yet there also are questions he’ll have to address down the road — particularly when NBA scouts begin to put eyes on him.
Monk indeed is extremely explosive. He possesses an extra gear in the open floor and is one of the best 6-4 dunkers in all of high school basketball, regardless of class. He runs on his toes and has a natural hop that’s common for athletes of that caliber. Meanwhile, he also possesses a solid frame that will enable him to become a powerhouse as he matures.
In the worst case, he’d always have the ability to make an impact as a transition scorer. Adding to his skillset, however, is a quick release, deep range, jump shot that he confidently drills even when contested. Last week in Chicago, NBA scouts commented that senior guard Malik Newman could ride his contested, pullup shooting ability to a long professional career.
While Monk doesn’t excel in that regard quite as much as Newman, he does possess the ability to get his shot even under pressure and doesn’t have to be perfectly balanced to knock them down.
From a developmental point of view, Monk definitely can improve his control dribbling and passing. He isn’t deficient in either capacity but does get a little loose with his dribble at times and can force passes that lead to turnovers. Generally, he’s best when moving at fifth or six gear and not as effective in second or third gear. That’s where he can further boost his standing in the eyes of the people who matter most.
But make no mistake: He’s certainly among the most capable scorers we’ll see all year. He effectively put Sunday’s championship game against Elfrid Payton Elite out of contact early, burying three consecutive threes that destroyed the opposition’s sense of belief.
Monk will be a showstopper for the Wings on the EYBL circuit, and while our analysis always will attempt to dig deeper than the superficial, he’s simply a fun young athlete to watch play.
He reaffirmed to HawgsIllustrated’s Dudley Dawson over the weekend that he intends to wait until next spring to announce a college decision, timing that proved popular for many of the 2015 elites as well. Arkansas naturally looms large in his recruitment, but so do Kentucky and other blueblood programs.
More Top Performers
Michael Porter, WF, Mo-Kan Elite — Let’s put it this way: If Porter truly is No. 3 in the Class of 2017, that means DeAndre Ayton and Troy Brown — the only guys ahead of him — must be epic talents. Porter boasts legitimate 6-8 size and extraordinary ball skills, making him a legitimate wing player rather than someone who’s trying to become one.
|Porter holds the talent to become a national sensation|
He wields a smooth jump shot and quick release and nails them on the move, with seemingly little effort and a release that will require no tinkering whatsoever. He’s also a mobile, one-footed jumper whose style and body type remind of a young Mike Dunleavy, only Porter is the clearly superior talent. And Dunleavy earned some All-American credentials at Duke, as you’ll recall, so that’s a bold — yet sincere — compliment for a high school sophomore.
Trae Young, PG, Mo-Kan Elite — Another sophomore for Mo-Kan, Young possesses obvious high-major ability. The 6-0 floor leader plays a cerebral game, sees the entire floor, buries three-pointers and competes with poise and concentration. He’ll need to get stronger and can get a little shaken by ball pressure, but over time he should develop the muscle to ward off pesky foes and apply consistent pressure on the offensive end. You’ll certainly read much more about him in the coming months.
Melvin Frazier, PF, Elfrid Payton Elite — Frazier is an uncommitted senior hoping to get a qualifying ACT score so that he can sign this spring. If not, he’ll attend prep school and join the 2016 class. As it stands, the undersized (6-6) forward is a sensational leaper off two feet who will have his pick of options should he succeed on the standardized test. Frazier doesn’t handle the ball much or shoot it very well from the perimeter, but he’s an athlete and a warrior who can defend either forward position in most cases, and he’s an excellent prospect for this very late stage in the senior class. If he moves to 2016, he also will continue to entertain major conference interest.
Dejon Jarreau, PG/WG, Elfrid Payton Elite — This junior enjoyed some outstanding moments for The Warmup runner-up. He boasts excellent versatility and could slot at either backcourt spot in college, with the understanding that he presently prefers being on the ball and making plays for himself and others. Jerreau is a good, not great athlete and suffered through shooting inconsistency during the weekend, but he projects well for college because he should thrive in pick-and-roll scenarios both driving off a high screen or passing over the top on the move. He’s currently Scout’s No. 66 junior prospect.
Skylar Mays, PG, Elfrid Payton Elite — It was a solid, unspectacular weekend for the former LSU pledge. Mays lacks high-major quickness and speed but does possess very good size (6-3) for point guard and now finishes with slams when he has the room to time his steps. More importantly, he remains a capable ballhandler and playmaker who has gotten stronger as well. He uses spin moves cleverly on drives and appears to be compensating for the lack of a great first step. He’ll be an intriguing evaluation for college coaches this month.
Ja’Vonte Smart, PG/SG, Elfrid Payton Elite — Only a freshman, Smart possesses tremendous long-term potential. He’s a combo guard right now but appears well on his way to becoming a point, and at 6-3 he already possesses excellent size and athleticism for the backcourt.
|Smart already has accumulated experience with USA Basketball|
He’s quick on the move and has long legs relative to his frame, so he may not even be finished growing. Meanwhile, he utilizes crossovers to get to the rim and displays promise as a perimeter defender as well. He needs refinement but we expect to become highly prominent for high-majors within the Deep South.
Gerald Liddell, WF/SG, D1 Shooters — Another freshman, Liddell is a tall 6-6 wing who slots as a wing forward now but eventually might become a shooting guard. Very slender and long-limbed, he, like Smart, plausibly may continue to grow. Liddell likes to shoot short jumpers off the bounce and looks like he will become more athletic as he matures, because his body type is lean and angular. He’s certainly one to watch closely the next couple years.
Devonte Patterson, PF, Texas Lightning — This 6-6 junior at Bridgeport (Texas) High had his successes and his struggles. Patterson is a strong and athletic forward who actually can defend some wings, though offensively he’s very right-handed and does his best work in transition and near the basket. He’s a little tight through his shoulders and will need to develop some back-to-the-basket offense as well as refine his ball skills, but there’s a place somewhere in the college game for strong athletes, and Patterson assuredly is that.
R.J. Nembhard, SG/PG, Team Texas Elite — A 6-3 sophomore at Keller (Texas) High, Nembhard mostly played on the ball this weekend but likely will be more effective if he can learn to play without it. He’s a sure handler and solid passer who sees the floor and can knock down an open shot, the questions being whether he has the burst to penetrate and whether he can defend an opposing point. Still, he obviously has time on his side and will get to sharpen his game against elite competition this spring and summer.
Connor Vanover, C, Arkansas Wings 16s — Vanover will be one of those guys who generates arguments his entire prep career. The 7-2 (yes, 7-2) center is just a freshman at Little Rock (Ark.) Arkansas Baptist and obviously possesses extreme size for the Class of 2018. He doesn’t run very well, is thin and has slower reflexes, and thus his improvement in those areas will be crucial. That said, there’s no way anyone realistically could expect him to be ripe at this point, as he has years to grow into his body. Additionally, he possesses outstanding shooting touch and already has three-point range. He simply needs mobility and quickness to dispel the long-term concerns.