With all the hype that surrounds Kentucky’s freshman stars every year, we sometimes cause ourselves to hold them to a standard that may be too high for college freshmen.
When all the experts (like us) are giving you all these reasons to think that Malik Monk is the greatest thing since sliced bread, one person who will be very upfront about what his players are doing is John Calipari.
Cal has recently spoken to the media about almost every Kentucky basketball topic you could imagine, which included Monk’s play this preseason.
Calipari first touched on how good Monk is defensively, saying that one reason he wants to focus on defense so much is because guys like Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Isaiah Briscoe can “maul” their opponents on the defensive end.
Cal said that Fox and Monk hold nothing back in preseason workouts, going at each other all the time and playing aggressive defense. All though it seems like Fox is getting the upper hand, as Cal said that he’s swiped Monk of the ball twice.
Calipari also talked about whether or not Monk and his fellow freshmen are ready to handle the hype surrounding them, and he said “we have a long way to go.” Addressing Monk’s position group specifically, he said the guards are “just too casual,” and that in practice they sometimes miss eight or nine shots in a row. They have to work on their focus when shooting, according to Calipari, including Monk.
“There was a time when Malik came down and made eight straight. I mean, they’re running and it’s not just standing and shooting,” Cal said. “Then I stopped everybody and I said, ‘OK, so he just made eight straight. What does that tell you he can (do)? Should he ever miss seven straight? No. If he misses seven straight he’s not even thinking about making it, he’s singing a song, he’s not looking at the rim. How do you miss seven in a row if you can make eight in a row?’”
Calipari also specifically addressed Monk’s streaky play, and whether or not that worries him.
“He settles for shots,” Calipari said. “he has the best runners, like shots left and right, that I’ve seen.” Calipari wants Monk to blow by people and shoot more of those runners this season. Cal also said that with that streaky play, Monk and the other freshmen have a lot to learn offensively, and the team will be defensive-minded early in the season.
Calipari also compared Monk to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, saying that Monk can run the break and blow by people, and if he’s ahead of his teammates on the floor, he better get the ball.
“Malik maybe played like Michael (Kidd-Gilchrist), which is if he’s ahead, give it to him,” Calipari said. “If you don’t give it to him, you’re coming out. Because he can just, you know—his explosion to go by you, his ability to make runners. He’s getting better at taking hits.”
Calipari clearly was honest about Monk, admitting that Monk needs to be consistent and utilize his best abilities more, but also pointing out that he has the ability to blow by anyone and score with incredible runners. We hope that Monk will realize how to use his talent to maximize his production and live up to the hype.