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

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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.

CBT Podcast: Recapping the first weekend of the 2018 NCAA Tournament

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Eamonn Brennan of The Athletic joined Rob Dauster for an epic, two-hour podcast on the first weekend of the tournament. It was so good that we had to split the podcast into two parts. On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the South and West Regions, from Sister Jean to UMBC to Nevada’s comebacks to Kentucky’s chances at a Final Four.

On this show, the two go through everything that happened in the East and Midwest Regions, from Villanova and Duke steamrolling to Michigan State collapsing to Syracuse and Clemson and Texas Tech and Purdue. It’s all in there.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Eight viral heroes from first weekend of March Madness

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One of my favorite parts of the NCAA tournament is seeing who comes out of nowhere to turn into a viral celebrity during this month of madness.

By my estimation, we had eight true candidates for the award of March Madness Viral Celebrity of the Year. Here they are:


He was more fired up for Houston’s success in the tournament than any Houston fan in the history of basketball in the city of Houston.


Jordan Poole is spelled a lot like Jordan Peele, which inevitably led to people tweeting at Peele instead of Poole. Peele’s thank you tweet was a highlight of the first weekend.


Having to answer questions from a bunch of reporters after suffering the most humiliating moment of your life is not an easy thing to do. Having to answer ridiculous and stupid questions could be intolerable, which is why I loved Ty Jerome’s response to a stupid question he was asked:


I loved seeing Robert Williams’ teammate do a panotmine windmill in the background while Williams was throwing down a windmill in real time on Providence:


Nevada head coach Eric Musselman has led his team to the Sweet 16, cussed on live television and gone shirtless to celebrate with his team, but the star of the Musselman family is his daughter Mariah:


He really does have great hair:

2. @UMBCAthletics

This dude lived the dream of every twitter user out there. When your shot is there, you have to take it.


Mic drop:

VIDEO: Eric Musselman celebrates Nevada win without a shirt

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Nevada head coach Eric Musselman went shirtless to celebrate his team’s come-from-behind win over No. 2 seed Cincinnati on Sunday.

I guess this is better than dropping F-bombs live on national TV. Maybe that’s why they had Steve Lappas talking over him …

Penny Hardaway to be named next Memphis head coach

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The worst-kept secret in college basketball no longer appears to be a secret: Penny Hardaway is going to be the next coaching at the University of Memphis.

ESPN is reporting that a deal has been agreed upon. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal is reporting that Penny was waiting for his season to end with East High School before he made anything official. NBC Sports can confirm that an announcement is expected to be made early this week, likely as soon as Tuesday, to introduce the former Memphis and NBA star as Tubby Smith’s replacement.

The truth, however, is that we all knew this was what would be happening the second that Memphis formally fired Tubby Smith. Hell, we knew it a month before that decision was made final. This was always how it was going to play out.

What’s interesting to me is now the discussion of whether or not Penny will be able to handle being a Division I head coach, because it’s been hit or miss with basketball programs hiring legends of their past. Chris Mullin and St. John’s hasn’t exactly gone to plan but Fred Hoiberg was quite successful at Iowa State. Kevin Ollie won a title with UConn then fell off a cliff. Patrick Ewing’s start wasn’t great, but he was better than expected.

Where does Penny fall on this scale?

Well, let me just drop this section of a column from Geoff Calkins in here:

Hardaway isn’t a guy who woke up one morning and decided he’d like to be a Division I head coach. He’s not a former player who got bored with retirement and decided he’d like to do something other than play golf.

Hardaway started coaching at middle school. Middle school! Because an old friend needed some help.

Then he built one of the best AAU programs in the country. Then he spent years coaching a high school team.

Does that sound like someone who doesn’t want to roll up his sleeves and do the work? Does that sound like someone who is just in it for the glory and the glitz?

The truth is, if it weren’t for Hardaway’s iconic stature, he might be characterized as a grinder, as a guy who worked his way up from the lowest levels of basketball on the strength of his relationship with the kids.

I think that this is going to work out for both Penny and Memphis, especially if Penny hires a staff that can help him with the intricacies of running a college basketball program.

2018 NCAA Tournament: All-First Weekend Team

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PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND: Jevon Carter, West Virginia

So Carter’s numbers themselves were ridiculous this weekend. He had 21 points, eight assists, six steals and five boards in a first round win over Murray State. He followed that up with 28 points, five assists, five steals and four boards in a win over in-state rival Marshall to advance to the Sweet 16. For the weekend, he shot 54 percent from the floor and 63 percent from three.

But perhaps the more telling state in regards to what Carter did this weekend are the numbers that the Murray State and Marshall stars put up this weekend. Jon Elmore — whose averages of 23 points, seven assists and six boards matched what Markelle Fultz averaged a season ago — was 4-for-12 from the floor with eight turnovers in Marshall’s second round loss. Jonathan Stark, who entered the tournament averaging 22 points, had nine points on 1-for-12 shooting in Murray State’s first round loss.

On Friday night, we get Jalen Brunson squaring off with Carter.

Buckle up.


  • ROB GRAY, Houston: Gray is the only guy on this list that didn’t reach the Sweet 16 — blame Jordan Poole for that — but he did put together one of the most memorable and impressive first round NCAA tournament performances I can ever remember when he dropped 39 points and a game-winner on San Diego State.
  • KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: Evans averaged 22.5 points in this weekend’s two games, but what got him on this list was that he averaged 16.5 points in the second half of those two games, closing out a come-from-behind win against Stephen F. Austin with drive after drive and hitting the go-ahead three in the win over Florida.
  • ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga: Not only did the Zags freshman averaged 21.5 points in two games — including a career-high 28 points, a career-high 12 boards, a career-high six threes and his first career double-double against Ohio State — but he hit the dagger in both of those games; a game-winner in the final minutes against UNCG and a three to put the Zags up six in the final two minutes against Ohio State.
  • SHAI GILGEOUS-ALEXANDER, Kentucky: We spent the entire season talking about how Kentucky didn’t have a star this year. That may not be true anymore. SGA averaged 23 points, 7.0 boards, 6.5 assists and 3.5 steals as the Wildcats reached the Sweet 16 as the highest remaining seed in the South Region.
  • THE MARTIN TWINS, Nevada: Caleb was the hero in the come-from-behind win over Texas, doing bonkers in overtime, while Cody had 25 points, seven assists and six boards in the come-from-behind win over Cincinnati. But mostly they were both awesome all weekend.