SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Malik Monk has seen a lot of wild defenses, but he hadn’t seen anything like what No. 9 St. Anthony (Jersey City) threw at the Bentonville (Ark.) guard Monday at the Hoophall Classic.
Monk, a preseason American Family Insurance Preseason ALL-USA selection, had 22 points but was held in the single digits until the fourth quarter of St. Anthony’s 72-50 victory. He also had a team-high six turnovers.
“I think that’s the best defensive team I’ve ever played against in high school,” Monk said. “They’re well-coached and sound. I knew a lot about (St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley). My coach talked a lot about him.”
Playing in front of John Calipari, his future coach at Kentucky, Monk had to deal with a quick double team every time he touched the ball. It wasn’t until the game was out of hand that he was able to show off his athleticism with a monster tomahawk slam and a reverse jam.
“We wanted to pick him up early and make it difficult for Monk to get any rhythm and then mix stuff up and put different people on him,” Hurley said.
While Monk was struggling with the Friars’ double-teams, St. Anthony junior guard R.J. Cole had his best game of the season, nailing nine of 17 shots for 23 points, including five three-pointers.
“In the warmups, I got a good sweat on, so I felt pretty good warming up,” Cole said. “There were a few college coaches who said they would come (to see him play), so I thought I should put a show on.”
The reason why Cole, who is being courted by Long Island University-Brooklyn and Brown, went off and Monk didn’t, had a lot to do with the differences in the teams. While Bentonville has a few Division I players, everything is centered around Monk. The Friars, with five Division I players, have had different players step up nearly every game.
The Friars went into the game ranked No. 9 but will likely move up after their third win in a week.
Asante Gist had 23 points in the Friars’ 60-56 win vs. No. 6 Patrick School (Elizabeth) on Saturday in the Dan Finn Classic in New Jersey and last Tuesday, Jagan Mosley had 19 points in an 86-30 defeat of Manchester Regional (Haledon).
The last time St. Anthony won the state’s Tournament of Champions was 2012 and Hurley said this might be his best team since then.
“I think it’s the depth of this team,” Hurley said. “The depth in the backcourt is extraordinary. We don’t have the points in the paint that we would have had with Jerome Frink or Lucky Jones or Kyle Anderson, but we have such a large group of guards. And different, than you see with most teams that are good teams, we have a different player in every game who seems to stand out.”