NEWSSTAND (6/24): Sacramento and Charlotte thrilled to have Fox and Monk

Justin Rowland, Publisher
Cats Illustrated

Notes on Isaiah Briscoe and Derek Willis, more on Sacramento and Charlotte and their love affairs with De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, and reviews following Miami's selection of Bam Adebayo.

Plus, football players are narrowing their lists and a UK golfer sets a record.

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SUMMER LEAGUE

Isaiah Briscoe and Derek Willis weren't selected in the NBA Draft on Thursday night, but both had agreed to play in the summer league by Friday. Briscoe will play with the 76ers in the summer league, according to Adam Zagoria. Willis will play with the Miami Heat.

Briscoe started for two seasons with UK. He averaged 12.1 points per game, 5.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists during his sophomore season. Briscoe declared for the NBA Draft after his freshman season but ultimately decided to return to school, mainly because of questions surrounding his jump shot. After making just 5 of 37 three-point attempts his freshman season (.135), Briscoe improved to 17 of 59 his sophomore year (.288).

LINK: Briscoe, Willis to play in summer league

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THE GAUNTLET

A 19-year-old sits at a round table near the stage and watches as three other teenagers and a 20-year-old become professional basketball players—and millionaires. Then he hears his name. "With the fifth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft," commissioner Adam Silver reads from the Barclays Center podium, "the Sacramento Kings select De'Aaron Fox from the University of Kentucky." Fox stands up and hugs his parents. On the biggest night of his life, it's the last time he'll see them for close to two-and-a-half hours. In between, he'll sit for 21 different interviews, pose for photos with an endless line of young fans, and immediately take on all the obligations of being a professional athlete.

There aren't many people here better equipped for the competition. Fox is an explosively dynamic player, with speed that's been compared to John Wall, disruptive hands on defense, and a fearlessness that allows him to take on bigger players at both ends of the court. He has work to do on his jump shot, and he doesn't have the height or the wingspan of some of the other top picks. But he has the belief, and the fire.

LINK: What's it like to be 19 years old and then, suddenly, a millionaire?

FOX'S ENERGY

The Kings began Thursday’s NBA draft with no point guards and finished the night with two, De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason III.

The Kings, however, should not be done addressing the position.

Free agency begins next Friday at 9:01 p.m. PDT, and the Kings promise to be active in pursuing players. Point guard must remain a high priority because going into a season with two rookie point guards is not a formula for success.

Developing the young players is the priority, but they’ll need veterans to guide them.

“That is such a key point in the development of that player and the development of your team,” said NBATV analyst Stu Jackson. “To throw a young point guard into the fire right away, you’re just begging for failure.”

LINK: De’Aaron Fox energizes the franchise. How Kings can help this excitement survive

When Markelle Fultz came off the board first, followed by Lonzo Ball, Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson, one thing became clear: De’Aaron Fox was going to be a Sacramento King. The franchise, heavily scrutinized after its botched handling of the DeMarcus Cousins trade, took the Kentucky floor general with the fifth overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.

It was a welcome sight for fans of a Kings franchise that’s lacked a true point guard for as long as many can remember. And it was a win for GM Vlade Divac, who desperately needed a victory on draft night to salvage his battered reputation with a devout fan base.

In truth, Divac said he would have taken Fox no matter what pick Sacramento had. The Kings had scouted him extensively and landed who they felt was the best guard in the draft. Sacramento’s GM described the war room’s reaction as “screaming” when Fox was available at No. 5.

LINK: Vlade Divac says Kings would have drafted De'Aaron Fox No. 1

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NARROWING LIST

You probably haven't heard much about Wetumpka, Ala., running back Kavosiey Smoke in the context of Kentucky's football recruiting efforts, but it may be time to get acquainted with the high three-star prospect.

Smoke, the nation's No. 27-ranked back from the 2018 class, released a top ten on Friday.

LINK: Alabama running back releases first top ten

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ANOTHER LIST CUT

Middle linebacker is an area of focus for Kentucky moving forward in the 2018 class, so it's a good thing that three-star prospect James Miller is one of several players at the position who are listing the Cats as a top choice.

The nation's No. 35-ranked ILB released a list of favorites on Friday, and it includes Kentucky.

LINK: Three-star linebacker announces favorites

OOZING CONFIDENCE

It is hard to unplug Malik Monk, because he rightly calls himself an “electrifying” player and has the personality to match.

But let’s try. I sat down one-on-one with Monk in Charlotte on Friday. And let me tell you, Hornets fans – your 2017 first-round draft pick is going to be a whole lot of fun.

Monk is a gregarious, extremely confident teenager (he’s still 19) who is fresh off a dazzling freshman year at Kentucky. In our conversation, the shooting guard riffed on Michael Jordan, why he didn’t fly to Charlotte for a pre-draft workout and why he believes his shooting range is better than Steph Curry’s. Some excerpts:

LINK: Exclusive interview with newest Hornet Malik Monk, and every answer oozes confidence

Immediately after he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, Malik Monk interviewed with the media. One quote that stood out was when he said that “I’m trying to be Rookie of the Year.” The first round pick added that he wants to “get to the Rookie Game and All-Star Weekend.”

Making the Rising Stars Challenge shouldn’t be too difficult for Monk but winning Rookie of the Year is a whole other test. It won’t be easy but if Malik can get ample playing time under Steve Clifford, he could have the opportunity to be in the running for ROY.

LINK: Malik Monk wants to be the NBA's Rookie of the Year

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MORE ON MONK

Malik Monk is one of the “you can’t miss” prospects that came into Thursday night’s (June 22) NBA Draft. Although it was believed he was a sure-fire top 10 pick, he ended up sliding to the Charlotte Hornets who fill their shooting guard hole with the 11th pick. The 19-year-old of Kentucky is the best shooter coming out of college and the North Carolina team just got a potential all-star level player.

An avid wearer of New Era hats, the Arkansas native is excited that the NBA will be teaming up with New Era as the official cap and recently debuted the On-Court Collection Draft Series for this year’s draft. Monk made his way to the 5th Ave. NBA store in NYC on Monday afternoon (June 19) for a meet-and-greet with fans as hundreds lined up along the side of the store.

LINK: Malik Monk talks New Era collaboration and preparing for the NBA Draft

Forgive Charlotte Hornets general manager Rich Cho for being exhausted after hours of planning for and going through a NBA Draft.

But Cho’s Freudian slip on Friday when he introduced his newest players as Malik Monk and Dwyane Wade before catching himself and correctly saying Dwayne Bacon may well be a telling moment.

Perhaps in a week in which he had earlier acquired eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard in trade, then added two talented draft picks, Cho feels like he’s got the kind of talent that would warrant comparisons to Wade.

“Well, obviously from my introduction, I haven’t slept much,” Cho said later, drawing laughter from the gathered news media at the Spectrum Center. “But the sense I have been getting from the fans is that ... they are just thrilled that we drafted Malik and Dwayne.”

LINK: Charlotte thrilled with potential fit for Malik Monk, Dwayne Bacon

REGRETS?

The Knicks could have turned an incredibly bad P.R. week into a win-win first round of the 2017 NBA Draft.

When trade talks involving Kristaps Porzingis cooled down and the draft board played out in New York's favor, the following scenario could have been a nightly event at Madison Square Garden next season: Porzingis and Kentucky sharpshooter Malik Monk playing off each other in the pick-and-roll, draining three-point shots and bringing life back to New York City basketball.

Instead, the Knicks selected French guard Frank Ntilikina at No. 8 overall. While the selection of the '3-and-D' overseas star has been praised by experts, it will be remembered as a missed opportunity to land Monk.

LINK: Four reasons the Knicks will regret passing on Malik Monk

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TOUGH CROWD

When it comes to the NBA draft, the order is reversed from the election process. First come the selections, then the polls open up.

For the Miami Heat the grades were mixed, to say the least, when it came to Thursday's selection of Kentucky big man Bam Adebayo with the No. 14 selection, the Heat's only pick of the night.

LINK: Bam Adebayo grading harsh when it comes to his Miami Heat selection

As I was sitting at Friday's media conference at AmericanAirlines Arena, and after watching more video of Bam, I, too, had the same Dwight Howard takeaway. Now, that's not to say that Adebayo has the same projected upside as Dwight, but that's the type of game I could envision: rebounding, shot blocking and offense played with such force that no one is questioning the lack of post play or outside shooting. Then I thought back to that 2004 draft when Dwight went No. 1 and remembered that Emeka Okafor went No. 2. And while Okafor had his moments before injuries got in the way, it became apparent early on that the offensive limitations would become a liability. I know the comparisons for Adebayo have been all over the place, Riley with Kemp, some with Tristan Thompson or Serge Ibaka, Bam preferring Kevin Garnett. But if we have to go through the exercise, then I'm keeping an eye on the Howard possibilities, while also wondering whether Howard's game from the outset of his career would have transferred to today's NBA.

LINK: Is there some Dwight Howard in Bam Adebayo's possibilities?

Back in February, the Heat were linked to Serge Ibaka as his tenure with the Orlando Magic never took off. Ibaka eventually landed in Toronto after the Raptors traded a first round pick and Terrence Ross but the interest in the bulky forward foreshadowed the direction Pat Riley sees for the organization.

And on draft night, the Heat got their very own version of Ibaka in the form of Bam Adebayo, a towering forward from Kentucky who could find a very comfortable role within the Heat’s rotation.

LINK: Why Heat fans should be excited about Bam Adebayo

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RECORD BREAKING

Records were made to be broken. Or at least, that’s how the saying goes.

Current Kentucky men’s golfer Tyler “Chip” McDaniel did just that when he eclipsed a 13-year-old record held by former Wildcat legend and UK Athletics Hall of Famer, J.B. Holmes during the three-round 102nd Kentucky Amateur Championship held at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Kentucky.

McDaniel posted a 54-hole score of 201, besting Holmes’ mark of 202 set at the Bowling Green Country Club in 2004.

LINK: McDaniel Breaks Kentucky State Am Tournament Record

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