NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The conversation about the nation’s top overall basketball recruit has centered around two players: consensus No. 1 prospect Harry Giles III and potential usurper Jayson Tatum (with a small group occasionally advocating for others). Malik Monk is not in that mix.
The Mississippi native wants you to know that he should be.
“I feel like I’m the best,” Monk said. “There’s a lot of other things going on (with the rankings), but I think I’m the best.”
In the course of a 3-1 record through two days of tight Peach Jam action, Monk has done everything to earn serious consideration as a pre-eminent prospect. He’s scored in buckets. He’s led his team. He’s locked down on defense, hit clutch free throws. In short, facing the best competition that his Arkansas Elite Wings squad has hit all year, Monk has been pretty, pretty good.
“I could have made way more better decisions in the loss,” Monk said. “But (the victory against Mac Irvin) was a good win. It’s big for us to have momentum going into Saturday.”
The lone blip against Monk’s rising stature came Wings Elite’s narrow loss to Team Takeover, when Monk was double-teamed into a 10-point, 4-rebound performance. Weighed against an explosive 31 points against Team Final, 21 points against Team Penny and 26 points against Mac Irvin Fire, Monk’s stats hold water.
Of course, Giles III and Tatum have been equally impressive, albeit with hiccups of their own. Giles’ Team CP3 squad was upset in Friday’s first game before he bounced back with 26 points and 7 rebounds in the nightcap. He could have had more if the game was more competitive. Meanwhile, Tatum, while coming up big in the most important moments, has seemed to disappear from a couple games for a stretch.
So, is Monk the best? That determination is in the eye of the beholder. If the final edge between players so different but eventually talented comes down to drive, Monk is convinced he’s the man to go with.
“This is the best of the best,” Monk said of competitiveness at the Peach Jam. “You’re going to get pushed every day so you have to bring it. … I go hard every game, all game. If people aren’t prepared for it, I’m going to kill you.”