Who is in Malik Monk’s Inner Circle?

Yam Supreme on Make A Gif

This young man needs his own silhouette logo.

Great work by the folks at Courtside Films, who put together an authoritative summer highlight package on Malik Monk – the springy Bentonville High junior who is developing into one of the most highly recruited players in state history regardless of sport.

Here are two interesting take-aways from an interview in the video:

1. It’s unclear exactly how high Malik can jump these days, but he had a running vertical jump of 42 inches in the eighth grade. He told me last spring he helped develop some of that extraordinary leg power by running through the mud that would form in the rural backyard after it rained.

2. His home – before 10th grade – was in Lepanto, Ark., the Monks’ native town to which Malik gives a shout out in the above video. He also gave an shout out to The Woods, the neighborhood he grew up in (across the street from his cousin, Razorback guard Ky Madden). Finally, he gave props to “SYM,” which is something I want to find out more about.

“SYM” stands the Lepanto friends of Malik and his older Marcus Monk, Marcus told me via text. Marcus Monk, as well their mother Jackie, are definitely at the top of the Malik Monk Inner Circle Hierarchy (which I refuse to henceforth refer to as the I.C.H.)

Back in Lepanto, the family has a lot of close friends and relatives, including the Maddens (Indeed, Ky Madden often Tweets out #sym) and Malik’s brothers Byron and Aaron Scales. On Malik’s Twitter page, Malik pays homage to his cousin Troy Tucker, who died three years ago from complications of sickle cell anemia. Next week, in an interview for Letterman Magazine, I’ll ask him and Marcus more about who/what “SYM” are, but Malik might have thrown out a clue by mentioning two people below:

I don’t know who @Dero7_GH is, but it appears that Rod Winkler is a University of Arkansas student who loves himself some basketball. Based on the profile image of his Twitter account, this appears to be the same Rod Winkler who caused a minor stir last January by getting into a heated, impromptu defensive positioning tutorial with Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison after UK lost to Arkansas in Fayetteville:

harrisonarkfan1

It doesn’t appear Winkler is from Lepanto (his Twitter feed and this article cite Little Rock as his hometown), but I don’t want to speculate. Maybe he lived in the Lepanto area earlier in life, after all. He probably never lived in Auburn Hills, Michigan, as the following image created by Kentucky Sports Radio of Winkler taking his game to the proverbial next level would have the simpletons among us believe.

Source: http://kentuckysportsradio.com/main/rod-winkler-vs-the-world/

Thank you for your explosive dunking, Malik Monk. And so long as you don’t get involved in actual Malice in any sort of Palace, I also give thanks to you, Rod Winkler, for making our world a less boring place.

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Sidney Moncrief on Nolan Richardson’s Basketball Hall of Fame Induction

In the late 1990s, Sidney Moncrief was nominated to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame four straight years. The Little Rock Hall High alumnus wasn’t voted in, though, and now stands as the one of the top two non-inducted guards in the game’s history. “I think in time that will happen,” Moncrief, a former Razorback All-American, told me on the phone today. “There’s a time frame for everything.” Former NBA commissioner David Stern, who’s being inducted today, told me Moncrief deserves to join him one day. I believe such a moment will happen sooner than later but that’s a story for a different time.

In the meantime, let’s focus on a Razorback who got in on his first try: Nolan Richardson. Few Division I coaches not named Roy Williams or Jim Boeheim have won 500 games in shorter time than he did, and nobody before or since has taken the University of Arkansas to the same heights. Tonight is Richardson’s night, and here’s Moncrief’s take on it:

“I was very excited for Nolan. The impact he’s had on the game of basketball and people-wise … It goes beyond basketball; It’s overall impact on people, more specifically when you’re a college coach, it’s all about the young men you are leading and the impact that you have on them. And he’s done that for years. I’m very proud he was [chosen to be] inducted.”

PS – Moncrief now lives in Dallas, where he runs his own business and has written five books. He’s currently working on a book called “Your Passport to Manhood,” the latest in a Passport-themed series. Last season, he worked as a Milwaukee Bucks analyst but he said it isn’t set if he will return to that position.


LeBron James Teaches Arkansan Malik Monk to Excel

Via HoopMixTape on YouTube

Via HoopMixTape on YouTube

In terms of basketball talent, Arkansas is in a golden era, producing elite players at a clip not seen in decades. But when it comes to national team recognition, the state is in a bit of a drought. Since 1996, only one native Arkansan has made a U.S. senior national team. In recent years, two of the state’s best young players – Anton Beard and Malik Monk – were in the running to make junior national teams at the U16 and U17 levels but were both cut multiple times. Monk’s most recent exclusion, which occurred last weekend, is the most surprising.

Monk, a consensus Top 15 player in the class of 2016, had a memorable summer torching foes as a headliner with the Arkansas Wings in Nike’s prestigious EYBL circuit (essentially, the Champions League of prep basketball). The 6’3″ shooting guard broke scoring records and put up 40 and 59 points while making a strong case that Arkansas, for likely the first time ever, is home to the nation’s most electrifying high school player*.  The Arkansas Wings founder Ron Crawford, who has coached in the U.S. youth developmental system, said last week he believed there was “no doubt” Monk would make the U17 national team.

But after a three-day audition in Colorado involving 33 players, Monk was among the first cut. If the experience becomes a valuable lesson, this isn’t necessarily bad thing for Malik. He strives, after all, to become a world-class point guard, and none other than John Stockton – one of the top point guards of all time – was cut from the 1984 Olympic team. Monk already is one of the most athletic prospects we’ve ever seen at the guard position. Two of the most freakishly athletic forwards in the history of the game, Charles Barkley and Blake Griffin, were also cut from national teams.

Stockton, Barkley and Griffin all bounced back from their disappointments to become NBA All-Star caliber players. For Monk to one day do the same, he’ll have to keep improving. He must become a more consistent shooter and better decision maker, his older brother Marcus Monk said. “He’s really been working on his distribution as far as his passing skills and making better decisions with the ball. He’s improved in that area some.”

But Malik isn’t yet the well-rounded player his coaches and (potential) national team coaches want him to be. In the five games he played in the EYBL Finals, the only standard statistical category he led the Wings in was points (18.8 ppg). He finished second in blocks (0.4) and assists (2.6), third in steals (1.6) and fifth in rebounds (3.5).

Honing shot selection, though, is the biggest task right now. Squaring off against fellow Arkansan KeVaughn Allen, Monk scored 40 points on 14-for-20 shooting against Memphis-based Team Penny. But in the other four games, he shot 11% from 3-point range and 21% overall from the field.

Marcus Monk has been working on helping his brother cut down on bad shots. They break down film of his game to sharpen Malik’s court awareness and make him a better teammate, Marcus said. “It’s more discussion as far as how to read screens and looking at that second and third level of defense. Like a quarterback, you know.”

In early July, Monk had a chance to learn firsthand from one of the world’s most efficient basketball players when he attended the LeBron James Skills Academy.  James is “really active with his camp. He takes time with all the players,” recalled Marcus Monk, who attended the event as an observer.

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Exclusive Portrait Shots of Prep Basketball’s “god of dunk”

Portrait of a Basketball Artist as a Young Man: By John David Pittman

Portrait of a Basketball Artist as a Young Man: By John David Pittman

Perhaps fitting the Nike pullover Malik Monk is rocking in this picture is definitively old school. He is, after all, constantly pursuing mastery of the game’s timeless fundamentals – whether that’s making the correct dribble or pass in a half-court set, or taking the right angle on post defense.

By John David Pittman

By John David Pittman

But the 16-year-old Monk wouldn’t be one of the nation’s hottest recruits if his game didn’t also incorporate jaw-droppingly futuristic

By - you guessed it - John David Pittman

By – you guessed it – John David Pittman

athleticism. That fusion, along with his story of escaping poverty for a better life in the Mecca of Walmart, provided the impetus for this CBS Sports feature .

Major kudos go to my Max Preps editor Mitch Stephens, who was willing to invest a lot of time and money in a multimedia feature that includes the work of talented Arkansan photographers and videographers.

I was really glad to work with freelance photographer John David Pittman on this. Along with videographer Matt Johnson, we went up to Conway last week to report on Bentonville’s quarterfinal game against Cabot. Considering Pittman and I live just a few houses apart in North Little Rock, it’s a shame this was our first assignment together. Hopefully, we’ll collaborate on other assignments even after I move to Benton County this summer.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

And make sure to check out what’s shaping up to be an epic Parkview-Joneboro title game in Hot Springs tomorrow night.


Before Derek Fisher, Dexter Reed Put Parkview High Basketball On the Map

A year before Eddie Sutton's arrival, Dexter Reed passed on a chance to join the Triplets in Fayetteville.

A year before Eddie Sutton’s arrival, Dexter Reed passed on a chance to join the Triplets in Fayetteville.

It’s March, which means basketball fever is spreading through Arkansas. Interest in the high school state tournament is extra high this year as the state enjoys a high school basketball golden age thanks to headliners like junior KeVaughn Allen and sophomore Malik Monk. Both highly recruited shooting guards are accomplished beyond their years. Last year, Allen helped lead North Little Rock to a state title as a sophomore and picked up Finals MVP along the way. Monk, ranked by some outlets as the best shooting guard in the nation in his class, may one-up him. Despite two late season losses, Monk has helped turn Bentonville into a powerhouse for the first time in a long time while racking up obscene box scores. (Who else hits 11 of 12 three-pointers, as Monk did in one January game?)

Allen and Monk, who both stand around 6-3, aren’t the first sophomore wing players to dominate the local high school scene. In the early 1970s, another great high school golden age was tipping off and Little Rock native Dexter Reed was in the thick of it. The 6-2 guard went on one of the most devastating tourney tears of any era to lead Little Rock Parkview to its first state title.

In 1971, Parkview had only existed for three years. All the dynastic names affiliated with the school now — Ripley, Flanigan, Fisher — were still far off in the future. These ‘71 Patriots finished their regular season with a 15-12 record, but caught fire in the state tournament at Barton Coliseum, knocking off Jacksonville, McClellan, Jonesboro and finally, Helena. Through those four games, Reed averaged 27 points including 43 to secure the Class AAA title, then the state’s second largest. Ron Brewer, who regularly played pickup ball with Reed in the 1970s, said his friend was among the best scorers in state history: “He was like a choreographer out there, just dancing and weaving and getting the defense all discombobulated. And when it’s all said and done, he just destroyed you. He destroyed you by himself.”

Reed was a different kind of player from Monk and Allen but effective in his own way. The new schoolers are both extremely explosive athletes with deep three-point range. Reed didn’t play above the rim, and he didn’t see much reason to shoot 21-footers in his three point shot-less era. “I wasn’t the best of shooters,” he says. “I was more of a scorer. I could get by people, you know — I tried to be like Earl the Pearl.”

Reed won another title as a junior and by his senior year was a second-team Parade All-American who had hundreds of scholarship offers. The University of Arkansas was an early favorite. Reed had grown up a Razorback fan, and many in his inner circle wanted to see him play for coach Lanny Van Eman. Among those was local coach Houston Nutt, Sr., who had taught him the game’s fundamentals. “He had a lot of influence on me,” says Reed, who as a boy had sold popcorn at War Memorial Stadium with Houston Nutt, Jr.

Memphis State University, fresh off a national championship appearance, also entered the recruiting picture. Reed’s parents liked the fact that its campus was more than an hour closer to their home than Fayetteville. Other factors tipped the scales Memphis’ way. For starters, the Tigers played in an arena that didn’t make Reed uncomfortable. One area of the Hogs’ Barnhill Fieldhouse where the football team worked out was covered in sawdust. “I had sinus problems, and I’d be coughing there during summer basketball camps,” he says. Moreover, Reed’s older brother already attended the UA but had had trouble socially acclimating. Reed’s brother told him to strongly consider a larger city as Fayetteville was then a small town and there “wasn’t but a handful of black kids.”

Dexter Reed chose Memphis State and as a freshman immediately made a splash, racking up more than 500 points and leading the Tigers to a 19-11 finish. A serious injury to his knee ligaments the following season diminished his quickness, but he bounced back to average 18.8 points a game as a senior and landed on two All-America teams.

One highlight his last year was a return to Little Rock to play a surging Hogs program under new coach Eddie Sutton. As Sutton’s first great Hogs team, that 1976–77 bunch only lost one regular season game. On Dec. 30, 1976, a then record crowd jammed into Barton Coliseum to watch Reed, the greatest scorer Little Rock had ever produced, square off against Hog stars like Brewer, a junior, and sophomores Sidney Moncrief and Marvin Delph. They were all friends and ribbed each other in advance of Reed’s only college game in his hometown. Brewer recalls, “Me, Sidney and Marvin kept saying ‘You can come back all you want, but you ain’t gonna win this one.’ And he single handily kept them in the ballgame.”

Arkansas led for most of it, with Reed guarding Moncrief and then Brewer. But Reed and the bigger Tigers finished strong, with Reed hitting free throws down the stretch to clinch a 69-62 win. “I didn’t really think it was that big to my teammates, but after it was over, they all came over jumping on me,” Reed says. As he left the arena, he recalled seeing some of the same people in the crowd who had watched him burst onto the stage seven years earlier as a Parkview sophomore. “It was like a time warp,” he says.

Fast forward to the present, and Reed still lives in Memphis, where he runs sign and flower shops and hosts a sports radio show every Saturday morning. His parents have passed, so he doesn’t make it back to Little Rock much anymore. But he still follows the Razorbacks, and he’s heard from friends and Memphis coaches about some of the state’s great high school guards like KeVaughn Allen. Reed is glad to know the tradition he helped nourish is in good hands. He concludes, “My heart has always been with Arkansas.”

An earlier version of this story was originally published in this month’s issue of Celebrate Arkansas.


Todd Day, Anton Beard, KeVaughn Allen & Recruiting to Arkansas

Don't let Beard (center) fool you. His basketball future is decidedly looking up.

Don’t let Beard (center) fool you. His basketball future is decidedly looking up.

  It took a while, but Anton Beard’s heart is finally where his home is. No longer committed to a college north of the state line, or attending high school south of the river, the Razorback signee is looking forward to a career among the most highly anticipated in recent Arkansas basketball history. Arkansas’ recent surge clearly shows coach Mike Anderson has the program trending upward but if the the Razorbacks are to climb closer to the summit, it’s likely they will need a potent combo guard like Beard to get there.

  Not that he has a prima donna mindset: “I’m not looking to score much, or do something out of the ordinary,” says Beard, a North Little Rock High senior. “I’m just coming in to lead the team and win games – just do what coach asks me to do.” It’s a formula he’s followed to a tee since winning an AAU national championship as a sixth grader, along with four AAU state titles and two state championships with his former school, Little Rock Parkview High. Beard looks to keep the ball rolling in the next two weeks during the state high school tournament. The Charging Wildcats are the defending state champions in the 7A classification (i.e. the state’s biggest schools) and Beard plays a large role in their hopes for repeating.

  For his part, though, Beard says he most relishes the chance of throwing his sturdy 5-11 frame into the path of any challenger to the throne. “I like guarding the best player on every team because I feel like I can just shut them down any time.” In these playoffs that may include Bentonville’s Malik Monk or Springdale’s Dorantez “D.J.” Evans. “I take pride in guarding players like that.”

  North Little Rock guard KeVaughn Allen adds that Beard has helped him improve in his junior season by pushing him in 5 a.m. workouts at the North Little Rock Athletic Club along with guard Adrian Moore and center Sam Dunkam. “If I’m not being aggressive in a game, he’ll tell me to pick it up,” says Allen, who played with Beard in middle school. Beard constantly tries to urge his friend, the state’s top ℅ 2015 recruit, to join him in Fayetteville. “Everyday, he tells me like ‘Be a Razorback, be a Hog,’” says Allen. He adds he considering the UA and is scheduling a date for an official visit.

   Beard’s NLR coach Johnny Rice says that toughness is a major reason Mike Anderson wanted him in Fayetteville. Pat Bradley, a former All-SEC guard and co-host of 103.7 FM’s The Zone, adds that Beard does “whatever it is that’s got to be done – bite, scratch, kick, claw … that’s the kind of guys that coach Anderson’s gonna attract.”

   Beard’s tenacity traces back to Detroit where his father, Floyd Beard, grew up and played ball at Mackenzie High School with Doug Smith, a future college star and first-round NBA pick. Floyd Beard saw other local success stories like those of Derrick Coleman and Steve Smith but he also saw prospects – like himself – who didn’t pan out.  “I was a good athlete; I just didn’t have the discipline,” he says. Floyd Beard, who has lived in North Little Rock for 25 years, wasn’t going to let his own son make the same mistakes. He told him: “I know what it takes to mess up, so I’ll show you what it takes to not mess up.”

  The serious work started in fourth grade. Daily pushups, jumping rope, workout requirements of 50 made jumpers and 50 made three-pointers followed. Anton “had asthma real bad and I had to build up his lungs,” Floyd Beard recalls. “What we did was for every day for about two years, I made him run the treadmill for about 15 minutes.” The tactic worked, but came with costs. “As a fourth grader, that’s hard. You’re friends are going to a birthday party – but, hey man – you got workouts.”

  The regimen eventually gave Anton Beard a leg up on the competition. He dominated at Lakewood Middle School and by the time high school began he and his parents were already thinking about college and beyond. Although both parents live in North Little Rock, it was agreed Beard should attend Parkview. The magnet school’s strong basketball program was a draw, sure, but so was its academic prestige. Katina Brown, Anton’s mother, also urged Beard to take advantage of the school’s renowned drama department to develop his public speaking and hone the interview skills he would one day need.

 Beard and his parents understand the game. They know Beard’s public profile will exponentially expand once he starts playing for the Razorbacks and that leveraging that profile in a smart way can set up him up for more success after college. Floyd Beard runs a youth basketball program called The Family through the Amateur Athletic Union. He’s enlisted Anton to help coach the teams, which include nearly 35 kids from grades one through six, most Saturday mornings at Glenview Community Center. Anton says he loves learning how to look at the game as a coach, but the new responsibilities don’t stop there. His father has also named him as the president of the non-profit organization.

 As of now, this is more honorary title than actual executive job, but Floyd Beard hopes that as Anton’s reputation grows so will The Family’s. Anton “gives us – I hate to say it – that star power,” Floyd says. The hope is Anton’s affiliation with the organization – through his coaching, mentoring and future public speaking engagements – would help The Family one day join the Arkansas Wings and Arkansas Hawks as the state’s most prominent AAU programs.

Click here to see the entire story, originally published in Sync magazine. The above excerpt is an expanded version of what published in Sync. 

beard nlr

If you want to see what is likely Beard’s most spectacular play of the year, check out the highlight vs. Searcy at the :54 marker here


Of Parkview v. North Little Rock & the Old-School Genius of Al Flanigan

Flanigan_victory_towel[1]

When KeVaughn Allen fouled out with a minute to go, Flanigan took out the towel to signify the win was all but sealed.

More than a decade ago, my little brother, then a high school sophomore, made one of Little Rock Parkview’s basketball teams. This was no small achievement. His classmates and teammates were serious players like Marc Winston and Jamaal Anderson who went on to star in football and became a first-round draft of the Atlanta Falcons. [Atlanta, btw, plays the Redskins this Sunday. Click here for more about that game and NFL betting news.] My brother only lasted a couple months with Parkview before he quit (wasn’t exactly what could be called “self-disciplined”), but he did play in all the practices and even got thrown into the end of a couple games. Despite the transitory nature of his experience, to this day he considers the fact he got into the program at all and played for its legendary coach to be the height of his athletic career.

Parkview, of course, is a gold standard in Arkansas high school prep circles. To be associated with it means something. It means you’re going to know how to find the open man, you’re going to cut to the hole when it’s time and you’re going to get your ass chewed out by one Al Flanigan. Through the decades Parkview’s head basketball coach has won five state titles, but I’m not sure if he’s delivered a more impressive victory than what happened on Friday night.

His Patriots team, in theory depleted a year after losing two high major recruits, beat defending state champion North Little Rock team 65-55. The Charging Wildcats (4-1) are hands down the state’s most talented team. Start with sophomore Adrian Moore, a transfer from Conway, who has offers from Baylor and Arkansas and delivered a one-handed tomahawk at the end of the first half which caused the roof to tremble.

Continue with muscular K.J. Hill, who will end up playing high major football (he’s an Arkansas recruit). Hill, a junior guard, transferred last summer from Bryant and is only now getting into basketball shape. He wasn’t as much of an offensive force tonight as he will be in two months. NLR’s starting backcourt features yet another transfer, senior Anton Beard, who this summer rejoined his middle school running mate KeVaughn Allen after spending the first three years of his high school career at Parkview. Beard is a Hog signee, and there are plenty people trying hard to make sure the highly-sought Allen, a junior, becomes one too.

Allen is nationally ranked as the eighth-best player  in his class. Heading into this game against Parkview, NLR had been the top-ranked team in the state for more than a year.

But rankings go out to the window when you face a team led by the fiery Al Flanigan, even if that team is perceived to be in a down year.  His team’s best players may not have high D1 scholarship offers or any number of stars attached to their names, but they showed five-star chemistry that is a direct tribute to Flanigan, the very definition of tough love. When Parkview (5-0) was trying to hold on to a 12-point lead early in the second half, he repeatedly jumped out of his seat and waved his signature talisman – a red towel – to rally his troops from the sideline. He huffed and puffed and nearly blew a couple of his players down, at one point faking like he was going to slap a Patriot with his towel before quickly pulling it back, smiling and giving the kid a quick pat on the back. He is not averse to having a little fun with his opponents’ fans and will let loose an extremely loud “God D***!!!” now and then. Through it all, though, it’s obvious he has his players’ utmost respect. They were very sharp against NLR and, more importantly, “they played like they wanted it more than we did,” NLR head coach Johnny Rice told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

A few more scatter shot observations:

1) There are no visible signs of hard feelings between Flanigan and his former protege Anton Beard.  Three years ago, Beard became the first freshman Flanigan had ever started. He helped deliver two state titles to Parkview but by the end of his junior year decided he wanted to play for North Little Rock, where he lives. This had to have been a disappointing decision for Flanigan to hear (especially since he’d lost his other elite guard – I.J. Ready – to graduation last spring) but it was good to see there is still a bond between the one-time sensei and student. Beard had a subpar game – he forced a few bad shots and at one point midway through the second half, after a series of misses near the basket, wound up face down on the court pounding the floor in frustration. Beard finished with 16 points, but some of his attempts came the expense of establishing an offensive flow.

Beard also suffered some kind of minor leg or ankle injury while throwing his body around and he probably played the last part of the game through pain. Still, you could tell Flanigan still cared about his prodigal son. At one stop in game action, Beard stood on the court a few feet from Flanigan, hands on his knees and grimacing in pain. Flanigan shouted: “You all right, player?”

After the smoke cleared...

After the smoke cleared…

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