Warmup: Monk heads list of Hawg Targets

The inaugural Warmup tipped off this past weekend in Bentonville, Ark., and naturally the Razorbacks’ coaching staff was paying very close attention to the proceedings. The state’s shining light, Malik Monk (pictured above), led the Arkansas Wings to victory, but other significant and potential Arkansas prospects took the court as well.

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 HI’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 Noteworthy Prospects

Mitchell Smith, PF, Arkansas Wings — Smith’s best basketball likely will require another 2-3 years of development. He’s very thin and doesn’t yet possess much offensive polish, so readers should think of him as a long-term prospect. Still, his assets — including his 6-10 height, impressive mobility and shotblocking potential — all resemble those of a high-major college big man. That’s why he already holds an offer from Arkansas and why others, such as Oklahoma State, Tulsa, Creighton and Tennessee (former staff), have extended offers as well. Smith will draw close attention from those programs and many others during the April live weekends, and obviously the Razorbacks would love to lock him up early before his reputation blossoms any further.

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, most notably including Arkansas, LSU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Give Frazier an inch, and he’ll take a mile

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.

Payton Willis, PG/SG, Arkansas Wings — I had hoped Willis would be more assertive over the weekend, but clearly he possesses talent. The combo guard is a capable playmaker and is far less prone to poor decisions with the ball than most guard guards, and along with that he buries open three-pointers. He simply was too quiet much of the time. Here’s hoping he’ll stand forward a little bit more as the EYBL season progresses.

Lawson Korita, SG, Arkansas Wings — Billed as a pure shooter, Korita did not disappoint when he was able to set his feet and get a clean look. He doesn’t possess outstanding athleticism and might struggle to get his shot against high-major opponents, but I like him as a mid-level category specialist — college basketball desperately needs more shooters. Korita also carries a strong frame and did a nice job at times helping out on the defensive glass.

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.

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