Nike Peach Jam Friday Recap: Malik Monk shows out, plus Stephen Zimmerman, Prince Ali

Leave a comment

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C . — The Class of 2016 is shaping up to be quite impressive at the top, and while names like Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Dennis Smith have rung out across the country, there is a very real argument to make that 6-foot-3 Arkansas Wings guard Malik Monk is the most impressive player in the class.

He’s certainly the most explosive, and I’m not just talking about his leaping ability.

On Friday night, in front of coaches like Bill Self and John Calipari, Monk put on an absolute show. He scored 40 points in a win over Team Penny — which includes the Lawson brothers and Florida commit KeVaughn Allen on the roster. He hit threes from 25 feet, finishing 6-for-10 from beyond the arc and 14-for-20 from the floor. Three times in the first half he threw down vicious dunks after knifing through traffic in the half court. He made no-look passes that drew just as many oohs-and-aahs as those dunks, collecting six boards and five assists in the process.

On a day when Allonzo Trier dropped 35 points and Jalen Brunson went for 34, Monk’s performance was by far the most dominant of the day and, in all likelihood, will go down as the most dominant of the event.

And it’s not even close to the best game he played on the EYBL circuit.

That would be the 59 points he put up on All Ohio Red out in Sacramento back in August. He hit 10 threes in that game and got to the foul line 23 times. That pretty succinctly sums up what Monk is able to do with the ball in his hands, and gives you a feel for why programs like Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana, Baylor and Memphis have already offered him a scholarship, although the consensus right now seems to be that Florida and Arkansas are the favorites. Monk is a native of Bentonville, Ark., and his brother played football and basketball for the Razorbacks. He is a must-get recruit for Mike Anderson, and not just because he is the ideal two-guard for Anderson’s system.

It’s not all big shooting numbers and highlight reel dunks for Monk, however, as he still has a tendency to mix in a 3-for-11 night too often. The game before he went for 40 he finished with just eight points and 1-for-8 shooting from three in a 15-point loss.

The thing to remember is that Monk is a member of the Class of 2016.

He’s doing all of this while playing up a level.

What happens when, in a year, he goes up against guys that are in his age group?

Quinndary Weatherspoon shines with Malik Newman out: The biggest news on the first day of Peach Jam was that the hand that Newman injured at the LeBron James Skills Academy would keep Rivals’ No. 2 player in the Class of 2015 out of the tournament. That was bad news for the Jackson Tigers, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Weatherspoon, as he lit up Southern Stampede and top 30 recruit Prince Ali to the tune of 32 points in front of a handful of high major coaches.

“I feel good about the way I played but it’s hard because I’m disappointed with the loss,” Weatherspoon said after the Tigers moved to 0-4 in the event. He lists offers from Tennessee, Georgia, Wichita State, Oklahoma, Murray State and Mississippi State.

Speaking of Prince Ali …: He only played the first half in that game. He didn’t look like himself, and after getting cursed out by his coach at halftime, he spent the second half sitting at the trainer’s table and then did not play for Southern Stampede in their evening game. When I asked him why, he said it’s because he hurt his ankle.

Stephen Zimmerman needs to be more assertive: I got my first look at Stephen Zimmerman this spring, and the 7-footer from Las Vegas played well in a win for his Oakland Soldiers team. Zimmerman is a terrific passer for a player his size, but at times it seems he becomes too reliant on it. Playing against a team that didn’t have anyone on their roster over 6-foot-7, Zimmerman’s first instinct on every post touch he got was to pass. To be fair, he was being doubled, but the only time he made a quick move — a lefty jump hook on the right block — he scored.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Leave a comment

Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
Leave a comment

After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.