Evin Demirel: Super-recruits Malik Monk, KeVaughn Allen Headline Clash for the Ages


malik monk vs kevaughn allen

First Showdown Between Arkansas’ Two Biggest Recruits

Visit Evin's Author PageIn Arkansas prep basketball circles, talent cycles. We’ve seen both low and high points, with many long-time observers agreeing the Grand Daddy Summit of them all was reached some time during the early to mid 1970s. Those were days when legends like Dexter, Sid, Ron and Marvin roamed our courts. They won’t soon be forgotten.

We are now in the midst of another talent uptick. This one goes higher – literally – than any we’ve seen before. Video from Friday night’s state tournament game between Bentonville and Cabot made that abundantly clear:

Hello to you, too, Malik Monk.

Glad your running 42-inch vertical leap isn’t going to waste.

Monk finished with 23 points, missing seven of eight three-point attempts, but he made the one two-pointer everyone will remember. I afterward asked Tim Cooper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s prep basketball editor, if he’d ever seen any Arkansas high school baller finish as spectacular a dunk. It took maybe a second for him to reply “KeVaughn Allen.”

If there’s anybody at this level who gets fans edging to the ends of their seats like Monk, it’s North Little Rock’s star shooting guard. The junior, considered by many to be theKeVaughn Allen Wall of Dunks state’s best player in his class, has thrown down his share of highlight dunks and has already helped lead the Charging Wildcats to a state title.

Allen and Monk, ranked by ESPN as the nation’s best sophomore shooting guard, clash Monday in the Class 7A semifinals at Conway High School. The 2:30 p.m. showdown pits North Little Rock (24-2, undefeated in 7A play) against Bentonville, which has never advanced past a 7A state semifinal. No. 1 seed North Little Rock is the hands down favorite, but Monk didn’t exactly sound intimidated as the tournament tipped off last week: “Being the underdog, we want to go in there and dominate.”

For Bentonville (19-5) to win, it almost certainly needs an all-around performance from Monk as impressive as his alley-oop against Cabot. Monk has struggled with his three-point shot in the last three games and a similarly poor shooting performance against a very potent North Little Rock offense could spell doom. North Little Rock has at least three athletic guards besides Allen – Adrian Moore, K.J. Hill and Razorback signee Anton Beard – who could be used to defend Monk throughout the game. Beard and Hill are especially strong and may physically wear down their Bentonville counterparts over four quarters.

Monk and Allen have guarded each other before. They scrimmaged as Arkansas Wings Elite teammates during a seven or eight-game run last summer, Monk recalls, and won the 2013 16U DI National Championship. Monk says he shares with Allen the ability to shoot and create off the dribble, “but off the ball, he’s a little bit better than me.” Monk added that Allen is a little stronger as well. Allen told the Democrat-Gazette Monk is “very explosive. He’s a good player. He can shoot the ball and play defense.” 

Off course, this game is far more than one-on-one. Rim protection and rebounding, as always, will play large roles in the final outcome. Bentonville has the size advantage with big men like 6-9 Ben Smith and 6-8 Mason McNee squaring off against 6-10 Sam Dunkam,  6-4 Chibu Ekeh et al.

On the perimeter, North Little Rock point guard Anton Beard is a game-changing talent in his own right and Bentonville guards like sophomore Tyrik Dixon and senior Jake Caudle will be counted on to keep him from under control. Monk and Dixon typically have a quickness advantage against their backcourt foes but have had trouble when that wasn’t the case against teams like Springdale. Monk says North Little Rock is “a great team. They attack the paint as good as me and Tyrik. They’ll push us to our limits.”

Nearly every time Monk and Allen take the floor, it seems some limit or another is broken. They do things in the air, around the rim, that most of us would have trouble pulling off on an 8-foot goal. They give us something close to the heart of why we love sports in the first place – a chance to simply marvel.  And to speculate. There is fun, too, in the looking back and casting forward.

Monk and Allen headline a new golden era just as Dexter Reed, Ron Brewer, Sidney Moncrief and Marvin Delph were marquee names for their generation 40 years ago. All four of those old schoolers went on to star in college, with three of them becoming All-Americans at Memphis and Arkansas. It’s not hard to imagine Monk and Allen one day achieving similar results.

The million dollar question is where.

Head to Head

Malik Monk:

6’3” 174 pounds

Stats (thru 20 games): 23.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.45 topg, 2.4 apg, 1.6 spg. Shot 71.1% on free throws, 44.5% on field goals and 33.5% from three-point range.

Has received offers from: Arkansas, Baylor, Memphis, Florida, Connecticut, Kansas and Indiana.


KeVaughn Allen:

6’2”, 170 pounds

Stats (rounded): 20 ppg, 6rpg, 4 apg, 3spg.

Has received offers from: Arkansas, Baylor, Memphis, Florida, Connecticut, Kansas,  Mississippi State and more.

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Demirel, who averages about 2.1 Tweets a day, is sadly still looking for that first D1 offer.

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