BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — One former Bentonville basketball player who played at Kentucky before he was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets hosted the first day of his summer camp back at his old high school. He’s using it as an opportunity to give back to the community that’s continued to support him despite the controversy going back to his Kentucky commitment.
Malik Monk, who was a five-star recruit when he played at Bentonville, is operating the three-day camp for kids ages 6-17. He said he remembered many of the young faces from his days playing for the Tigers.
“They used to be at all the games, and I’m just trying to get back to them, so they can learn what I learned while I was here,” Monk said.
Kids showed up wearing Monk’s jersey and that of former Kentucky teammate De’Aaron Fox, who was a guest attendee at the camp. The two teamed up for the Wildcats in a choice that was seen as borderline state treason by many Razorback fans, who assumed Monk’s proximity to the university and his family ties would deliver him to the Hogs. Monk’s brother, Marcus, was a standout receiver for the Razorback football team in the mid-2000s.
“I do remember when he committed to Kentucky,” said Blake Hinds, a Razorback fan who grew up in Northwest Arkansas. “It was a lot of hateful comments kind of saying ‘why would you leave Arkansas?’ They were upset in his decision, and I think some people even thought he was kind of leading on the program.”
Cameron Baldwin, a University of Arkansas junior, said he was upset when Monk chose Kentucky. He said he’s now a fan of the player for returning to his hometown and supporting the community he grew up in.
“At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters is giving back to your community and just being a good guy overall,” Baldwin said.
Monk said the past is the past. He said working with Bentonville kids shows his love for the state.
“The people that don’t want to support me or anything like that, that’s fine,” Monk said. “That’s gonna come with basketball, but I’m doing this because I love Arkansas, and I love being here in Bentonville.”