Mike Anderson On One of the Strangest Box Scores in SEC History

Portis' three blocks contributed to a stat line funkification you won't believe.

Portis’ three blocks contributed to a stat line funkification you won’t believe. (courtesy Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.)

Arkansas assistant coach Matt Zimmerman couldn’t believe it.

As ushers swept the seats of a cavernous Bud Walton Arena behind him, he sat courtside, looking down at the box score of a game that had just finished. It wasn’t the 81-75 final score that surprised him. These days, it seems, his No. 18 Hogs go into every game legitimately expecting to win. No, it was the way in which Arkansas had sewn up its seventh straight win.

On this bitter cold night, Texas A & M had outrebounded Arkansas 44 to 23. In the Razorbacks’ 40 Minutes of Hell style, getting out rebounded happens. Usually not by this much, but it happens.

The weird part?

While giving up so many boards – a stat stronger, bigger and more athletic teams usually win – Arkansas somehow also held a 12 to 0 advantage in block shots. Which is, of course, a stat that also usually goes to the taller, more athletic team. In this game, Alandise Harris likely had the defensive game of his year, chipping in four blocked shots, while Moses Kingsley and Bobby Portis added three swats each. Yet the fact that not a single Aggie touched an Arkansas shot attempt is a testament to the Hogs’ discipline and shot selection on offense.

Matt Zimmerman couldn’t recall such an unlikely disparity in his decades of coaching. Same goes for his boss Mike Anderson. “I’ve had some teams that have gotten out-rebounded by about 20, yeah, and [still] win the game” the head coach said.  “On a of lot of those rebounds [the Aggies] would shoot it and go back and get it, shoot it and go back and get it. But we’ve got to correct that. To have 12 blocked shots and for them to have zero, that tells me our guys were pretty accurate. And in the first half we were blocking those shots and we were coming up with them, we were heading down the other end on the fast break. So, to do that against a team like Texas A&M – that tells me we are getting better.”

So, has anything like this ever happened before? 

It’s very rare. I have confirmed Arkansas has pulled off the only -20 or more rebound/+10 or more block disparity in a Division I game this season. But, thanks to a tip from HogStats.com, it appears one Razorback team did something similar on December 11, 1990. In that game, a 10-point Arkansas win, Hogs center Oliver Miller went off for nine blocks and the team tallied 15 in all, according to separate records found by the HogStats editor.

Yet perhaps Miller was too hungry for a record-setting block night to corral many defensive rebounds, because South Alabama out-rebounded Arkansas 60-34 (Miller finished with seven total rebounds). We don’t know how many blocks South Alabama got this game (team blocks aren’t recorded in that season’s media guide), but it’s likely the number was less than five. If anybody can find record of that stat, please let me know.

N.B. Anderson would have actually coached in this game, as an assistant under Nolan Richardson, but I won’t hold it against him for not being to recall this one specific time in the .60 seconds he had to respond to me.

Dear readers, do you recall any other crazily anomalous statistical disparity games in college basketball history?


Ranking All 46 NBA/ABA Arkansan Three-Pointer Shooters

In few realms does the state of Arkansas travel the Middle Way. In politics, we’re among the reddest of the red. In education, we’re near the bottom of nearly all national metrics. Income stats, too.

It’s hardly a long shot to say Arkansans don’t do moderation well.

Except when it comes to producing world-classily average deep shooters. Arkansas ranks No. 25 among 50 states in three-point shooting in the NBA and the now-defunct ABA. That’s an accuracy only ranking, tallied by adding up all three-point makes and attempts by all NBA/ABA players born in each state. New Hampshire, South Dakota and Nebraska are tops here, with New Mexico, Delaware and Wyoming groveling at the bottom. Click here to nerd out more on this stuff, as I did for SLAM.

Looking at only native Arkansans, we see one reason for the state’s supreme averageness is the lack of any elite deadeye gunners. No Kyle Korvers, Hubert Davises, Dell Currys – or even Martell Websters or Anthony Morrows -have ever come out of our state. While Joe Johnson did briefly hold the NBA record for three point makes in one quarter (8), he hasn’t consistently been able to sustain the elite accuracy he showed early in his career with the Phoenix Suns.

Indeed, when it comes to accuracy, the best Arkansan long bomber isn’t even know for being an Arkansan. Mike Conley, Jr., son of Razorback track great Mike Conley, moved in childhood from Fayetteville to Indiana.

14 Best NBA/ABA Arkansan Three Point Gunners

3 PT% Made Attempted Native Town
Jasper Wilson* 0.429 6 14 Camden
Mike Conley 0.376 630 1677 Fayetteville
Derek Fisher 0.374 1248 3341 Little Rock
Joe Johnson 0.372 1671 4497 Little Rock
Fred Jones 0.353 346 979 Malvern
Jimmy Oliver 0.34 17 50 Menifee
Marcus Brown 0.333 13 39 West Memphis
Quincy Lewis 0.333 37 111 Little Rock
Jeff Webster 0.333 2 6 Pine Bluff
James Anderson 0.33 173 525 El Dorado
Scottie Pippen 0.326 978 3002 Hamburg
Fat Lever 0.31 162 523 Pine Bluff
Dennis Nutt 0.294 5 17 Little Rock
Sidney Moncrief 0.284 110 387 Little Rock

*I don’t consider Jasper Wilson the most accurate NBA Arkansan three-point shooter of all time. He just lucked out with a small sample size. A “not-small” sample size, in the context of this ranking, should probably begin around 200 career attempts. 

Notice the rankings only consider birthplace, not where the player actually went to high school. That’s why even the most hardcore NBA Arkansan fan will see unfamiliar names on these lists. And while I technically shouldn’t have included Ronnie Brewer on account of his spending his first four years in Oregon, where his dad played basketball, I couldn’t help myself. Too many Arkansans would want the exception to be made.

Ronnie has never been known as a great shooter, so it comes as no surprise he ranks No. 14 in the

Worst 21 NBA/ABA Arkansan Three Point Shooters

Jeff Martin 0.282 29 103 Cherry Valley
Ronnie Brewer 0.254 90 335 Portland, OR
Andrew Lang 0.25 5 20 Pine Bluff
Ron Brewer 0.248 30 121 Fort Smith
Sonny Weems 0.241 19 79 West Memphis
Jim McElroy 0.206 7 34 Cotton Plant
Cory Carr 0.167 5 30 Fordyce
Keith Lee 0.167 2 12 West Memphis
Archie Goodwin 0.159 7 44 Little Rock
Jeremy Evans 0.143 1 7 Crossett
Wil Jones 0.143 12 84 McGehee
Corliss Williamson 0.136 6 44 Russellville
Caldwell Jones 0.123 7 57 McGehee
Major Jones 0.111 1 9 McGhee
Bryant Reeves 0.074 2 27 Fort Smith
Jeff Taylor 0 0 1 Blytheville
Jerry Rook 0 0 2 Jonesboro
Gaylon Nickerson 0 0 2 Osecola
Charles Jones 0 0 6 McGehee
Joe Barry Carroll 0 0 13 Pine Bluff
Michael Cage 0 0 25 West Memphis

More of a surprise is the depth to which second-year pro Archie Goodwin’s shooting has submarined. Sure, Goodwin’s strength has always been driving to the basket. But he had made strides shooting from deep his senior year at Sylvan Hills and was better than this in his lone season at Kentucky. We’ll see how much he improves with more minutes, and more opportunities to get in a groove.

I should also be noted Sonny Weems has in recent years become a 37% three-point shooter in the world’s second-most competitive league. 

Of course, some of the best NBA Arkansans never had a chance to prove their not-so-middling mettle in this realm. Below are mostly native Arkies who either played before played before 1979, when the NBA adopted the three-pointer, or who played but not in the ABA – which used the three from its 1967 get-go.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mike Anderson Explains Razorbacks’ Struggles to Fans: SEC Week 3

FullSizeRender-2

Entering tonight’s game against Alabama, the Razorback basketball program’s identity still isn’t set. In theory, its foundation is a tenacious defensive “40 Minutes of Hell” philosophy which is supposed to turn foes into whimpering newts. In reality, three weeks into the SEC conference season, the Hogs are a far more impressive offensive team while ranking at the bottom or near the bottom in multiple SEC defense categories.

The extent to which Arkansas can improve here – especially on the road – will determine how many fans believe head coach Mike Anderson has finally, unequivocally turned the program around.

With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to chart how Anderson himself monitors the progress – and lack thereof – of his team’s performances on a week-by-week basis. He provided the following insight early this week on his own show – Full Court Press with Mike Anderson:

Arkansas 69

@ Tennessee 74

“To me, it’s a lesson for our guys. You got to show up and play, no matter where you’re playing. You got to show up and play with energy, you got to show up and play with toughness, and you got to play together with teamwork.”

“I want us to be less predictable. I think we’re more predictable now, and I think that’s why teams are really attacking us. We got some time to get it right, and we will get it right.”

Hogs’ Conference Record: 2-1

Hogs’ Conference Road Record: 1-1


 Ole Miss 96

@ Arkansas 82

“Our defense has really, really, really got to get back on track as far as guarding people.”

“They played a lot of zone against us, and we hadn’t seen a lot of it, and they came out with the win.”

“Our guard players got to pick up defensively, our forward players got to pick up defensively, and I think just overall we’ve just got to be connected with our bench – which has been our strength. They didn’t have one of those particular nights that we really love.”

Hogs’ Conference Record: 2-2

Hogs’ Conference Road Record: 1-1

“We’re better than where we were last year, but we’re nowhere where we need to be as contenders,” Hog legend Corey Beck* told Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly. “We’ve still got a long, long way to go.”

*Whom the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective tongue-and-cheekily qualified as one of the NBA’s biggest partiers of all time (when taking into account FG% difference between Sunday games and all other games).


KeVaughn Allen Was Considering Becoming a Hog in Late 2014, But Not in January 2015

Won't be jumping elsewhere.

Allen says he won’t be jumping elsewhere. [Photo by Jaison Sterling of PulaskiNews.net]

Just got off the phone with KeVaughn Allen, the North Little Rock High senior who’s one of the nation’s top shooting guards.  I was interviewing him for an upcoming story for SLAM magazine, but also wanted to know the latest on this two-time state champion’s recruitment status.

Last April, Allen committed to the University of Florida. His high school coach Johnny Rice told me that until that point Arkansas had heavily recruited him but backed off after he committed to play for Billy Donovan.

Arkansas coaches could have tried harder, though, according to Allen’s long-time AAU coach and trainer Kahn Cotton. Cotton, who has trained Allen most mornings for the last five years, recalls that coaches with Louisville, Florida, Connecticut, Baylor, Tennessee and Memphis had all personally visited Allen or watched one of his games more times than Arkansas coaches had before last April. “Florida had been here three times and Arkansas came once in that time period … Baylor had been down four times, Tennessee three times, Memphis five or six times by that time.”

Arkansas’ coaches can’t speak for themselves on this matter, as Allen hasn’t yet signed with a program. But it doesn’t seem Allen was as high of a priority for Mike Anderson and his staff as other in-state players like Bobby Portis and now Malik Monk (Anderson and every Razorback basketball player except Alandise Harris [who was ill] watched a December double-header which included a game between Monk’s Bentonville team and St. Louis Chaminade).

There was a flare of hope among Razorback fans a couple months ago when Allen – who according to Rice is averaging around 23 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.8 steals per game while shooting around 55% on field goals and 38% on threes – chose not to sign early with Florida. Also last fall Arkansas commit K.J. Hill, his classmate and teammate, told Sync’s Nate Olson he would try to persuade him to join him on the Hill.

Twice, at different points in the phone interview, I asked Allen if he was going to sign with Florida in the spring and twice he said “yes.” I asked him if he planned to visit any other campuses and he said “no.” When I asked Allen how many times Hill had tried to convince him to come to the UA, Allen said “two or three times.”

I then asked him what he said in response. “I’ll consider it,” he said, referring to what he told Hill. I asked him if he’s considering it {going to Arkansas} any longer and he said “no.” He reaffirmed his plan to sign with Florida and said he will not visit any other programs.

He added the only current or committed/signed Gator player he’s in contact with is big man Noah Dickerson. It’s unclear where 6-3 Allen would fit in next year. Florida’s 2015-16 guard returnees will likely include star Michael Frazier, fellow 4-star+ talents in Kasey Hill, Chris Chiozza and Brandone Francis, along with incoming transfer Eli Carter. That’s a loaded backcourt which has already factored in two players – Braxton Ogbueze and Dillon Graham – transferring out of the program.

That’s why some programs like Tennessee, Memphis, Texas A&M, Missouri, California and Arkansas (by phone) are still recruiting Allen, Cotton says. He believes Allen would have the likelihood of significantly more playing time at other programs*.


Meanwhile, on the football front, it’s not exactly set where K.J. Hill will land.

The future of the dynamic, four-star wide receiver who may also play guard in college basketball is in doubt after the departure of Arkansas offensive coordinator Jim Cheney was announced this weekend. Hill had said Chaney was a major reason he chose Arkansas in the first place.

“Jim Chaney leaving Arkansas for the same job at Pittsburgh makes receiver K.J. Hill’s commitment uncertain at this time, according to his stepfather Montez Peterson,” the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Richard Davenport wrote. “He said they have also heard rumors of receivers coach Michael Smith leaving and Hill will keep his options open.”

Allen says he has not lately spoken to Hill about his collegiate future.

* Like Florida, Arkansas doesn’t have a clear-cut opening in its backcourt next season. The Hogs’ guard returnees are Anton Beard, Manuale Watkins, Anthlon Bell, Nick Babb and Jabril Durham. While the Hogs lose an anchor in Ky Madden, they gain sharp-shooting transfer Dusty Hannahs and Jimmy Whitt, a scoring prodigy who’s putting up more than 30 points and four steals a game for his Columbia, Mo. high school. 

All the same, plenty of programs could find minutes for a player the caliber of Allen. 


The First D1 Arkansan Basketball Player to Notch a 20/20/4/3 Stat Line in Decades

Anthony Livingston got a shout out from SportsCenter on Saturday night.

Anthony Livingston got a shout out from SportsCenter on Saturday night.

Arkansas State forward Anthony Livingston goes by the nickname “Big Ant” despite standing 6’8″ and weighing 230 pounds. He’s going to find hanging on to that alias even more difficult after notching a gargantuan stat line on Saturday, when he became the first Division 1 player in decades to score 20 points, grab 20 rebounds, dish four assists and block three shots for an Arkansas university.

The Red Wolves (4-4) needed every bit of the Washington D.C. native’s help against Marshall, too. Early in the second half, Arkansas State trailed the Thundering Herd by eight points but Livingston’s shooting helped key an 8-0 run while his energy on the boards helped the Red Wolves out-rebound Marshall by 15 in the second half.

Arkansas State won 67-58.

It was the second time since 1997 a Sun Belt player had a 20/20/4/3 and the most un-ant-like performance by an ASU big since January 1994 when 6’7″ Jeff Clifton lifted the program atop his shoulders and Incredible Hulked it to a 66-54 win against UALR with 43 points, 25 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. That performance, which remains the most statistically dominant by a Division I big man at an Arkansas university in the last two decades, came on the heels of a UALR player boycott involving Derek Fisher.

Three years later, Trojan power forward Montrelle Dobbins put up 27 points, 20 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 steals and 5 turnovers in a 56-64 road loss to South Alabama. That same year, UAPB’s Fred Luckett had 22 points and 21 rebounds in a 68-116 road loss to Mississippi Valley State.

Since then, there had been only two 20/20 games by Division I Arkansans:

1. 1998

Nicky Davis (UA) – 24 points, 23 rebounds, 1 assist, 4 blocks, 2 steals, 6 turnovers

UA won 97-71 at home against Jackson State

2. 2005

Rashad Jones-Jennings (UALR) – 23 points, 30 rebounds*, 1 assist, 0 blocks, 3 steals, 3 turnovers

UALR won 72-54 at home versus UAPB

*Jones-Jennings’ 30 rebound night remains the second-highest total in D1 college basketball since 1997. How impressive is that? It’s the second-best output out of more than 1.8 million individual performances.

Just in case you’re curious – and I’m guessing you’re slightly curious if you’ve made it down here – below are all Division I players to reach at least 20 points, 20 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks in a single game since 1997.

1. Tim Duncan (Wake Forest) 1997

2. Mike Sweetney (Georgetown) 2002

3. Brandon Hunter (Ohio) 2003

4. Yemi Nicholson (Denver) 2006

5. Michael Beasley (Kansas State) 2007

6. Matt Mullery 2009 (Brown)

7. Keith Benson 2010 (Oakland)

8. Tony Mitchell (North Texas) 2012

It’s very difficult to tell how many times – if any – an Arkansan student-athlete accomplished this stat line before Livingston. Former Razorback star Dean Tolson, for instance, had five games of 20 or more rebounds in the early 1970s, and it’s likely he also scored at least 20 points in some of those games. But it’s hard to find individual box scores from those games, and it’s time-consuming to search for them through newspaper microfilm. Plus, as my main HogStats.com man below points out, blocks and assists weren’t tracked in that era:


Mike Anderson Vs. Nolan Richardson: Comparing Their First 4 Years At Arkansas

nolan-mike far

For Razorback fans, the question never gets old: Will basketball coach Mike Anderson lift the program to the same levels reached by his mentor Nolan Richardson? Tonight’s game, on the road against No. 20 Iowa State, should provide the best start of an answer yet. The greatest Arkansas teams of the early to mid 1990s regularly defeated ranked non-conference teams away from home but that hasn’t happened since 1997*. But, so far, all signs point to this being the best Arkansas team since that era.

The most dramatic evidence is below. Look at this steady improvement through Anderson’s first four seasons in Fayetteville:

imageThe Razorbacks’ scalding shooting from the outside this season – 46% on three-pointers – has been a major reason for the boost in Effective FG % and True Shooting % (definitions below). That shooting helps space the floor and lead to a nation-leading assist rate. But the Razorbacks can’t rely on shooting at this clip in the kind of hostile environment the Cyclones’ Hilton Coliseum will present. So it’s important they get to the line and build an early lead.

Referee bias (conscious or not) toward the home college team makes it doubly difficult for visitors to play from behind or in a back-and-forth affair. “On the road especially you want to help keep the officiating out of it as much as you can,” Nolan Richardson said in a phone interview.

As always, defense fuels offense for a “40 Minutes of Hell”-style program. The below numbers show that while Arkansas is playing at a faster rate than ever in the Anderson era (78 possessions per 40 minutes vs. 72 in his first year), they are barely giving up more points. This is a credit to the lower rate at which they are fouling this year than the past two seasons (more experienced players) and fresher second-half legs generating turnovers at a higher clip (more depth).

image(1)It’s likely older Razorback stars like Bobby Portis, Rashad Madden and Michael Qualls will play well at Iowa State, where the Cyclones are 50-4 the last five years, Iowan-Arkansan sportswriter Nate Olson points out.  They proved they could deliver on the road last season and have played in similarly intense arenas like Kentucky’s.

The pivotal issue is how Arkansas’ three first-year guards – Anton Beard, Jabril Durham and Nick Babb – play. “You’re as good as your guards take you,” Richardson said. So far, all three have played their supporting roles well but they have played in only one game away from Bud Walton Arena. While often what’s needed is a timely, clutch three in the vein of Scotty Thurman, this year the right play may simply be avoiding a turnover and making a timely entry pass to Portis. Last year, “we got discombobulated in the final few minutes of games,” Portis told USA Today, recalling seven losses in ten road games. “Are we going to finish teams off? That’s the biggest question.”

To me, North Little Rock native Anton Beard is the most important of the three young guards. Perhaps I’m simply biased,  as I have followed him closely since he was a freshman in high school and seen many of his games at Parkview High and North Little Rock.  He’s a champion, point blank, winning three state titles in four years. Point guards simply don’t start for Parkview coach Al Flanigan as freshmen. He’s the only one who has, and that season I watched him lead his team to a victory at Hall High School in the middle of its four-year run of consecutive state championships.

So far, Beard the collegian freshman has played the role of a scrappy, clutch shooter (46.2% on threes) off the bench who has a not-stellar 1.2 assists-to 1 turnover ratio. “Beard is moving in a pretty good direction,” Richardson said. “For the Razorbacks to be where they got to be, his game has got to improve.” Beard is fairly stocky, but Richardson says he (and all other current Razorback guards) don’t compare in the physical toughness department to Corey Beck, the point guard of his ’94 title team. “Beck was an animal.”

Perhaps the most apt comparison for Beard, at this point, is Arlyn Bowers who ended up pairing with Lee Mayberry as guards in Arkansas’ 1990 Final Four run. Two years before that, Bowers and Mayberry were just starting out as freshmen in Nolan Richardson’s fourth year as head coach.

Just six games into Year 4, it’s difficult to conduct a thorough comparison of Nolan Richardson and Mike Anderson as Razorback head coaches. Obviously, the jury’s still out on Anderson. But the sample size is large enough now to at least take a look:

image(2)[Most conferences didn’t adopt the three-point shot until 1986-87. So 1985-86 Effective FG % stats reflect two-point field goal percentage only.]

image(3)Comparing these numbers with the last four seasons,  we see Anderson’s teams have improved at more steady clip, year by year, in most categories. And from an overall statistical standpoint, Anderson’s Year 4 is significantly more impressive so far than Nolan’s.

But it’s important to note that Nolan’s Year 3 team finished 11-5 in conference vs. the 10-8 record Mike’s Year 3 team had. Nolan made the tournament in 1987-88 (losing in the first round to Villanova) whereas Mike hasn’t yet. In Year 4, Nolan got a massive injection of talent when Bowers and Mayberry arrived, along with fellow freshmen Todd Day and Oliver Miller. Their play paid immediate dividends, and the Hogs ultimately finished 13-3 in conference and 25-7 overall. They lost in the 1989 NCAA Tournament’s second round.

We’ll see if Mike’s Year 4 team keeps pace. A win tonight certainly certainly helps toward that end.

* November 29, 1997 was the last time Arkansas beat a ranked team on a neutral court in pre-conference play. Arkansas beat No. 17 Fresno State in Phoenix. And December 6, 1992 was the last time the program scored such a win on the road. The Hogs beat No. 9 Arizona in Tucson, AZ.  Mike Bibby was 14 years old.

** Using data from six of Hogs’ first seven games in 1988-89 (Box score from Game No. 5 not available at HogStats.com).PS: Partial season data not available for Turnovers Forced Per Game, so this stat instead reflects per-game average from entire 1988-89 season.


Effective Field Goal % adds weight to three-point shots. Formula: (FGM + (0.5 x 3PM))/FGA

True Shooting % is similar, but also factors in free throws. Formula: Pts/(2*(FGA + (.44*FTA)))


The Many Sides of Arkansas Sports Legend Marcus Monk: An Exclusive

It’s a weekday morning in early September. Why is Razorback legend Marcus Monk driving to a place in southwest Arkansas that translates to “skull crusher”?

No, the 28-year-old Monk isn’t trying to resurrect his football career by challenging All-Pro NFL defensive end J.J. Watt to a “Hunger Games”-style wrestling match. Nor is he heading to Cossatot River High School to raft the equally dangerous whitewaters nearby that inspired the French to call it “cassé-tête.”

Instead Monk, Arkansas’ all-time leader in touchdown catches, is traveling Interstate 49 to help with a camp his former high school basketball coach organized. The coach, Kevin Kyzer, coached Monk more than a decade ago at East Poinsett County High School in Lepanto, Ark. Monk was one of the most decorated athletes the area has ever produced, a top-100 prep basketball player heading into a senior year in which he averaged 20.8 points, 16.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 3.8 blocks and 2.5 steals a game while leading EPC to a 35-1 record along with its first Class AAA state title.

Monk lives in Fayetteville, where he starred for the Hogs as a wide receiver 2004-07, but firmly believes he owes time and support to the people he knew growing up in northeast Arkansas. Most every year since he graduated college, he’s organized benefit games or camps to help raise funds for school supplies for elementary schools in Poinsett County. “Education is really important. It can change lives,” says Monk, an EPC valedictorian. “I do it to try to show my appreciation and try to give back.”

This mindset – whether applying to community, team or family – isn’t new. In 2004, he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: “The first thing I’m going to do if I go pro in either football or basketball is to make sure my mother and Malik [his 6-year-old brother] are taken care of. I’m going to pay her back for all she’s done for me and give this town someone to be proud of.”

Since 2012, all three Monks have moved from northeast to northwest Arkansas for better job and education opportunities.  Whether they will remain there two years from now is something millions of college basketball fans around the nation want to know.

                                                                                      ***

Heading into summer of 2007, the storybook ending seemed so close: The millions of dollars, the endorsement deals, the wonderful new home mom always deserved. Monk been been a dual sport athlete as a freshman, playing spare minutes in basketball but announcing himself as a star in football. He had a junior season for the ages, helping Arkansas soar to 7-1 conference mark and the SEC title game while tallying 50 catches, 962 yards and a school-record 11 touchdowns. At 6-6, and 220 pounds, Monk was plenty physically imposing. Mix in his uncanny field awareness, high IQ and soft hands, and he had the makings of a top NFL prospect.

Then, during an August practice, Monk suffered a knee injury that required two surgeries and knocked him out of the first seven games. He returned to finish his senior season, but was never the same on the football field. The Chicago Bears drafted Monk in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft, but he didn’t make the team. Stints with the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers also didn’t pan out. “I did get cut from the game I love, but I knew that I had my education and I could pretty much do whatever I wanted to as long as I put my mind to it,” he says. “I’ve always known that you can’t play forever. One advantage I did have was I stayed on top of my schoolwork.”

Indeed, Monk graduated college with a business degree in three and a half years. He came back in the late 2008 to take graduate courses in real estate and finance, and to give basketball another shot – this time primarily to keep in shape for NFL tryouts. Nearly four years after he’d last played, Monk rejoined the Hog basketball program. While taking graduate courses in real estate and finance, Monk averaged 4.5 points and 3.1 rebounds in the 2008-09 season. He helped the Razorbacks knock off No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas at home.

Behind the scenes, he was a valuable leader for a young squad that included six freshmen and was at one point down to 10 scholarship players. “He brought that kind of calm, cool and collected mindset and attitude and you could tell he was the most mature one out there,” recalls Nick Mason, one of the six freshmen. “He was talking to guys in the locker room, making sure everybody had their grades straight – or whatever problems they had. I can remember him talking to guys – especially the freshmen – about girls, if they were having girl problems.”

Monk also developed respect for then-Razorback head coach John Pelphrey that developed into friendship. He said Pelphrey has been “a mentor,” checking in with him while he was playing professional basketball in Germany in 2010-2012. They remained friends when Monk briefly moved back to northeast Arkansas, and started helping train his friend, former Razorback and NBA player Ronnie Brewer, Jr. John Pelphrey is now a University of Florida assistant coach. When he calls now, it’s to check up on Monk as well as his younger brother Malik.

The Monks near their northeast Arkansas home.

The Monks near their northeast Arkansas home. Courtesy Marcus Monk

Malik Monk, a 16-year old junior at Bentonville High School, is one of the nation’s most highly recruited basketball players. Almost every major program, including Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina and Indiana, has offered him a scholarship. Pelphrey, who met Malik when he was a boy tagging behind Marcus Monk at Bud Walton Arena, now recruits him.

The bigger star Malik becomes, the more Marcus is known as Malik’s older brother as opposed to Marcus’ younger brother. This kind of perception change doesn’t disorient Marcus in the least. In his eyes, his role is crystal clear: Help protect Malik’s time, ensure he maintains his grades, allow him to be as much of a kid as possible. This means it’s often Marcus, or his mother, who take calls from college coaches and media on behalf of Malik.

While Marcus is a Razorback in so many ways, he doesn’t intend to sway Malik toward his own alma mater. The Monks monksare weighing which programs best suited to provide Malik both with the start of a good college education as well as what Malik hopes is a one-year preparation for a successful NBA career. Marcus is able to provide Malik – along with Malik’s summer league teammates – with advice borne of his own experience of being a highly recruited student-athlete. “I get a chance to spend time with my brother, but I also have 12 other guys that I’m responsible for and I’m a big brother to them as well.”

Last basketball season, Marcus helped mentor some of the current Razorback basketball players. He was finishing a Master’s of Business Administration degree at the University of Arkansas and volunteer assisted with the team, helping in various ways such as cutting film and devising scouting reports. The experience was valuable for any possible future college coaching. It also allowed him to spend more time with his cousin, Rashad “Ky” Madden, also a Lepanto, Ark. native.

Madden, a senior guard, is the team’s leading scorer and its most experienced player. Between Malik and Marcus in age, he is essentially like a middle brother. All three frequently talk with each other. “That’s like my little brother,” Marcus says of Madden. “I love him. I’ve been knowing him a long, long time. We’re from the same place, the same neighborhood … It’s more personal between me and Ky.”

Just as Malik prepares for a transition into the world of college basketball, and Ky prepares for a potential pro basketball career, Marcus too finds himself at a crossroads. In May, he graduated with an MBA and stays connected to his classmates for potential job leads. He spent much of this summer on the road with Malik and his summer travel team, and in September was working on the launch of his brother’s Web site. He says he doesn’t yet know if he will stay in northwest Arkansas for the next year or two, although he does want to be around Malik as he finishes high school.

Some see Marcus settling into a full-time job in northwest Arkansas as a sign that Malik would be a Razorback. Marcus says just as he and Malik haven’t yet settled on an eventual college destination, nor has he decided what career path he’ll venture down next.

“I’m in a transition stage,” he says. Whether a job in training, coaching, business or something else, “if something appears that is hard for me to turn down, then I definitely have to consider it.” But, he adds, “as far as priorities, my family is first come.”

Marcus Monk is no longer the spectacular receiver who seemingly could catch anything thrown his way. Instead, these days, Marcus Monk the giver pursues something much higher.

The above article originally published in the October/November issue of 2njoy magazine.

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