How Malik Monk’s decision to go to Kentucky forever changed his life
Ultimately, Monk chose to play basketball for Kentucky and longtime Head Coach John Calipari, who has a proven track record of producing NBA superstars (Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis, Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns, etc.). Malik’s decision was objectively the best move possible to set him up for future success in the NBA.
Many Arkansans disagreed. They felt as if he betrayed them personally by signing with Kentucky instead of signing with Arkansas. It was a decision comparable to LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in the 2010 offseason, except Cleveland has several other professional sports teams besides the Cavaliers.
Monk’s AAU coach explained this perceived betrayal in further detail.
"“The people of Arkansas feel betrayed,” said Crawford, a Razorbacks’ supporter who nonetheless agreed with Monk’s decision. “The presumption was that the University of Arkansas contributed to that (Bentonville) move and that’s not true. Everybody just assumed he was going to Arkansas even though the kid never said he was. “Now, if you want Arkansas to be part of your life, you should’ve went. He will have a hard time coming home and there’s no doubt about that. He’s not just going to be the fair-haired boy here. He hurt the state of Arkansas. He insulted them.”"
Even current Milwaukee Bucks forward Bobby Portis, an Arkansas native and former Razorback, criticized Monk’s decision to go to Kentucky.
"“I didn’t need Kentucky to make it to the NBA but thats none of my business.”"
Longtime sportscaster Mike Irwin of KNWA’s Razorback Nation even went as far as suggesting that Monk’s family should move from Arkansas.
"“Not only is it an insult that it happened, he went to the one place that is just unacceptable.” Irwin warned Monk, “You better move.”"
Imagine saying that about a teenager! Telling an entire family to move based on where a high school senior chose to go to college!
Monk thrived at the University of Kentucky playing alongside future NBA stars De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo. Most notably, Monk scored 47 points in an exhilarating 103-100 win over the University of North Carolina (ironically Michael Jordan’s alma mater).
Monk’s Kentucky squad convincingly defeated Arkansas in the SEC Championship game. Kentucky would go on to advance to the Elite 8 in the NCAA Tournament, losing to eventual national champion North Carolina in a thrilling rematch.
Monk, along with Fox and Adebayo, would go on to declare for the NBA Draft shortly after the season ended. His name quickly got called on by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: “With the 11th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets select Malik Monk!”
Little did Monk know that his NBA journey would not go as planned. And it would be a whole lot worse than what he previously imagined.