LEXINGTON, Ky. – UK freshman guard Malik Monk (pictured with De'Aaron Fox) continued hauling in All-America honors on Monday, March 6, most notably the second-team All-America honors from the Sporting News.
The Sporting News is one of four “major” NCAA-recognized All-America teams that the NCAA uses for its consensus All-America teams. The other three are the Associated Press, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Monk was joined on the Sporting News All-America second team by Luke Kennard (Duke), Nigel Williams-Goss (Gonzaga), Dillon Brooks (Oregon) and Josh Jackson (Kansas).
The Sporting News honor marks the third All-America selection for Monk on Monday. He was named to USA Today’s second team as well as NBC Sports’ second team. Freshman teammate De’Aaron Fox made USA Today’s third team.
It’s the third straight season a Wildcat has made one of the Sporting News All-America teams. Willie Cauley-Stein (first team) and Karl-Anthony Towns (third team) made it in 2015, while Tyler Ulis (first team) was selected last season.
Monk electrified crowds with his prolific scoring outbursts and high-flying violent dunks throughout the season. He averaged 21.2 points per game, edging South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell for the scoring title by a fraction of a point. He is the fourth freshman in the history of the SEC to win the regular-season scoring title.
He is ranked among the top 20 nationally in scoring and second among all freshmen. No John Calipari-coached player has ever averaged more than 21.2 points for an entire season (Dajuan Wagner at Memphis in 2002). He’s scored in double figures in all but one game this season and has 17 games of 20 points or more, including a Kentucky freshman record 47 points vs. North Carolina in December.
The freshman from Lepanto, Arkansas, is the only freshman in program history with four 30-point games, and six times this season he has scored at least 20 points in a half.
Monk, Fox Named All-America by USA Today
Kentucky’s freshman backcourt tandem of Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox was named All-America by USA Today on Monday, March 6. Monk earned second-team distinction, while Fox was tabbed to the third team.
Monk was joined on the second team by Josh Jackson (Kansas), Justin Jackson (North Carolina), Luke Kennard (Duke) and Nigel Williams-Goss (Gonzaga). Third-team honorees along with Fox included Ethan Happ (Wisconsin), Lauri Markkanen (Arizona), Monte Morris (Iowa State) and Johnathan Motley (Baylor).
Together, UK’s backcourt duo made up the top-scoring freshman tandem in the nation at 36.9 points per game. Monk captured the Southeastern Conference’s scoring title at 21.2 points per game, while Fox paced the league in assists per game with an average of 5.0 dimes en route to leading Kentucky to its 48th regular-season SEC title.
Arguably the most dynamic backcourt in the country, Fox and Monk combined for eight SEC weekly honors for the season and both have been among a slew of postseason watch lists for national player of the year accolades.
Fox was the spearhead to the nation’s fifth-highest scoring team in the country. He dished out a league-high 5.0 assists per game and also ranked in the top 10 in scoring at 15.5 points per game.
He made history in November, becoming just the second player in Kentucky history to register a triple-double. Fox had 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in the historic game vs. Arizona State. It marked the first triple-double since Chris Mills’ had 19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists on Dec. 27, 1988. Against Stephen F. Austin, in the season opener, Fox dished out 12 assists to set two program records. The 12 dimes were the most by any Wildcat in his debut, and the most of any player in a season-opening game since assists began being kept during the 1971-72 season.
Fox was at his best in clutch situations, including games at Vanderbilt, Georgia and Texas A&M. Against the Aggies, in helping UK clinch the SEC crown outright, Fox scored 13 of his team-high 19 points after halftime.
Adebayo Repeats as SEC Freshman of the Week
After helping Kentucky win its 48th regular-season Southeastern Conference crown, freshman forward Bam Adebayo was named the league’s top-performing freshman on Monday for a second straight week.
Adebayo provided a consistent presence for the Cats in two historic comeback victories this week. He logged 14.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals per game in wins over Vanderbilt and Texas A&M.
The Little Washington, North Carolina, native began the week with 16 points and six boards as Kentucky overcame a 19-point deficit – the largest comeback by the Wildcats since Feb. 22, 1997 -- for a 73-67 win over the Commodores.
Adebayo was magnificent in the full-court press, coming up with two steals and a block to aid the Wildcat surge. He also scored 10 of his 16 points after the break and was 6 of 7 from the free-throw line in the decisive second half.
Kentucky found itself in familiar territory on the road at Texas A&M in its quest to clinch the SEC title outright. The Aggies jumped out to a 15-point first-half advantage, but the Cats wasted little time in mounting a comeback and taking a lead before halftime. Kentucky would eventually prevail for a 71-63 win, marking the largest comeback on the road in the Calipari era.
Adebayo scored 13 points and added a team-high eight rebounds. He also posted two blocks and an assist, while playing a team-high 36 minutes. He was 6 of 7 from the field for the game and had four offensive rebounds as UK logged a game-high 11 second-chance points.
UK’s freshman big man has been sensational in the Wildcats’ eight-game winning streak to end the regular season. Adebayo has averaged 11.2 rebounds per game over his last five games. He has pulled down at least six during the eight-game winning streak. He has also reached double figures in scoring in six of the eight games.
For the week, Adebayo led the team in rebounding and field-goal percentage. He was third on the team in scoring and second in both blocks and steals for the week.
Kentucky has now won the SEC Freshman of the Week a league-leading eight times this season. Adebayo’s honor is the second of his career and the 11th weekly award of the season for the Wildcats, most in the conference.
The Wildcats begin SEC Tournament action on Friday in Nashville, Tennessee. Kentucky will take on the winner of Tennessee-Georgia in Bridgestone Arena at 1 p.m. ET. The game is slated to air live on the SEC Network.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught