By BROOKE MORRISON
I was asked after watching the first few games of the season who is my favorite freshmen on this year’s talented squad? I faltered a bit. All of them are talented. All are equally impressive. At that time, I was leaning heavily toward Wenyen Gabriel. I love his length, his hustle, and his huge upside. I asked if I could watch another game or two before I gave my answer. I am glad I did.
Like most of BBN, I have fallen in love with Malik Monk. Yes, he is long and an extremely athletic guard. Yes, he is amazing on the open court and finishing above the rim. Yes, he makes plays off the dribble and can play catch and shoot with the best of them. BUT, surprisingly, those are not the things that make him my favorite freshmen.
If I had listened to scouting reports by the “experts,” I would see a streaky shooter with a tendency to seek out the ball instead of distribute it and a player that would lack any focus on defense. Generally, I don’t listen to anyone except my own instincts. I have faith in Coach Cal to find players that will fit within a very successful system. In this case? He sure found a gem.
Against Arizona State, I witnessed a McDonald’s All-American and potential lottery pick dive on the floor for a loose ball. I watched him make one of the most athletic plays in my tenure as a Kentucky Basketball fan. I observed him smile and enjoy his teammates as they made their own plays.
What I love about Malik Monk is his hunger. His drive. His personality. His love for BBN and the team he wears across his chest. Those mean much more to me than all of the tangibles I mentioned above. It is the intangibles that lead me to pick him as my favorite freshmen this year.