LEXINGTON, Ky. — A lot of scoring just walked out the door at Kentucky. Malik Monk followed De’Aaron Fox’s lead and on Tuesday declared for the 2017 NBA Draft. The school announced that he plans to hire an agent, meaning the decision is permanent.
“I would like to thank Coach Cal for helping me evolve my game and become a more complete basketball player,” Monk said in a UK-issued statement. “You pushed me all season to be my best and taught me the true meaning of team and sacrifice. KP (assistant Kenny Payne), thank you for mentoring me on and off the court and helping me perfect my craft while guiding me through the entire process.”
Monk, who is projected to be picked fifth overall by Draft Express, went on to thank his teammates, saying this was the best year of his life and “you will always have a brother in me,” and had a special message for Kentucky fans.
“BBN, I cannot thank you enough,” he said. “You gave me memories that will last a lifetime. You are truly the best fans in the world.”
Monk elaborated on that message in a lengthy farewell letter for the Players’ Tribune. He and Fox will certainly be missed in Kentucky’s backcourt.
They rank first and fifth on the Wildcats’ all-time freshman scoring list and combined for 42 percent of the team’s points this season. Add the departures of three seniors and UK is losing five players responsible for 1,951 of the team’s 3,225 points in 2016-17 — not counting freshman forward Bam Adebayo and sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe, who are also likely to declare for the draft, and a handful of pending transfer decisions.
Monk, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Lepanto, Ark., became the Cats’ eighth consensus All-American in as many seasons under coach John Calipari after setting the school’s freshman scoring record and ranking second among freshmen nationally at 19.8 points per game. He was voted SEC Player of the Year by the Associated Press and SEC Freshman of the year by the league’s coaches.
“Malik is a special talent,” Calipari said. “With Malik, you’re talking about a superior athlete with skills and an ability to score that make him truly unique. What I love about Malik is that, as the season went on, he learned how to help our team win by doing more than just score. He became an efficient player who I believe will make an immediate impact at the next level.”
His 754 points this season rank fourth in Kentucky history, regardless of class, behind only Dan Issel, Jodie Meeks and Jamal Mashburn. Monk’s 104 made 3-pointers are third-most in program history. He scored 20-plus 18 times and 30-plus four times, including 47 and the game-winner against North Carolina in December.
— FanSportsClips (@FanSportsClips) December 18, 2016
Monk came close to being an NCAA Tournament hero in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight rematch with the Tar Heels when he hit two 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds, including the tying trey with 7.2 ticks left — only to see Luke Maye answer with a winner on the other end, propelling UNC to a national title.
Monk is Kentucky’s 20th one-and-done player in eight years under Calipari. Adebayo is likely next. He and Briscoe have until 11:59 p.m. ET on April 23 to submit their names for the 2017 NBA Draft.