Hogs for Breakfast: Malik Monk is most hated Arkansas native since…

Arkansas versus Kentucky. It isn’t 1994 anymore, but who cares? Those two teams together have created some magic even in recent years when Arkansas has been, relative those mid-90s, down.

Some fans haven’t bothered paying attention to Arkansas basketball since that era. The game has changed too much, they say. Recent coaches have let down the legacy, they’ll cry. But come Saturday night, count on anyone even remotely associated with Arkansas basketball to be watching Hogs-Wildcats.

A lot of that has to do with Malik Monk. The Kentucky freshman is averaging 30 points a game through two SEC games so far. His older brother, Marcus, was a basketball player and football star at Arkansas in the 2000s. Because of that, since Malik was in junior high, a lot of the state’s fan base figured him an easy case to be a Razorbacks basketballer when the time came. As each year passed, as Monk showcased skills no high schooler in the Natural State has ever shown, it became more and more clear Arkansas was going to have difficulty landing him.

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Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Monk is the best Arkansas-raised basketball player in the state’s high school history. Odds are, he’ll be the highest-drafted, too, as he’s expected to be a lottery pick after this one season at Kentucky.

And, boy, oh boy, is he despised around here because of it.

People don’t hate Malik Monk the human being. They don’t hate his talent or his attitude. They hate that it isn’t in Fayetteville. They’re upset at Marcus, who was seen as the puppeteer for Malik’s recruitment, for letting (some say “convincing”) little brother escape the state’s borders. The working theory among the masses is the Monk brothers wanted to build their brand and felt the NBA would be the best place for Malik’s burgeoning basketball career and Marcus’ hopeful sports-business one.

Only those two know for certain what led to Malik’s decision to spurn Arkansas. But make no mistake, Arkansas coach Mike Anderson tried to get him. Anderson’s been unfairly raked over the coals by fans for not getting Monk. Truth is, the Razorbacks landing Monk was less likely than “the field” getting Monk since the player was in 10th grade.

“He did what he had to do,” Anderson said. “Disappointed (as) I am, we recruited the heck out of him. We worked, we really worked hard. He’s a good kid and he’s doing what we thought he would do.”

You know what the real wild thing is, though? Folks who have this absurd notion of betrayal, as though either Marcus or Malik owed it to the fans – or themselves – to be Razorbacks.

That’s semi-famous country music singer and Arkansas native Justin Moore saying Arkansas kids should stay in Arkansas to make their careers.

This is a screenshot of Moore’s life right after high school, per Wikipedia.

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This is me right now.

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Where’s your “loyalty,” Moore? So dumb.

No one loses their minds when the kids with 36 scores on the ACTs from Arkansas decide to go to Harvard or MIT. They don’t flip when the two-star guys from Class 3A schools neglect Central Arkansas to go play for the Eastern Kentuckys of the world. Minds are only lost when that one guy decides he’d rather go elsewhere.

Take a look at the following. This is a list two- and three-star players from Arkansas who played significant Division I basketball since 2011.

2011
Hunter Mickelson – Arkansas (4 stars)
Ky Madden – Arkansas (4 stars)
Aaron Ross – Texas Tech (3 stars)
Jamal Jones – Ole Miss/Texas A&M (3 stars)
David Rivers – Nebraska (3 stars)
Raheem Appleby – Louisiana Tech (3 stars)

2012
Archie Goodwin – Kentucky (5 stars)
Dusty Hannahs – Texas Tech/Arkansas (2 stars)

2013
Bobby Portis – Arkansas (5 stars)
IJ Ready – Mississippi State (3 stars)

2014
Kahron Ross – Lehigh (3 stars)
Anton Beard – Arkansas (3 stars)
Trey Thompson – Arkansas (2 stars)

2015
KeVaughn Allen – Florida (4 stars)
Marquise Pointer – Charleston (3 stars)

2016
Malik Monk – Kentucky (5 stars)
Mitchell Smith – Missouri (3 stars)
Eric Curry – Minnesota (3 stars)
Payton Willis – Vanderbilt (3 stars)
Shawn Williams – East Carolina (3 stars)
Lawson Korita – Tulsa (3 stars)
Austin Reaves – Wichita State (3 stars)

Archie Goodwin was at Kentucky one season. Monk will be at Kentucky one season. These are not the kinds of guys programs are built around. KeVaughn Allen is. He’s a guy who’ll be in school three years and can be the player who leads teams to consecutive NCAA Tournaments. Maybe a guy like Curry or Willis or Reaves may be, as they’re all having solid starts to their college careers. None are Goodwin, Allen, Monk or Portis, though.

Other than Allen, there is no one on the list Arkansas simply “had to have.” And he, Goodwin and Monk are the only ones people lose their minds over.

Maybe I don’t get it because I’m not from Arkansas. But, I promise the collective “no loyalty” stuff doesn’t occur anywhere else I’ve ever been. It’s ugly and strange and horrible.

As for what it means come Saturday – almost no one outside Anderson’s locker room is anticipating an Arkansas win. Of course, no one was anticipating Arkansas beating Kentucky three straight a couple years ago, either. The Wildcats have since won three straight of their own.

If nothing else, watch it for the story lines. Tip is Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.

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