BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The Kentucky men’s basketball team will say goodbye to arguably the nation’s best backcourt during the 2015-16 season with Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray headed to the NBA, but the Wildcats appear to be in good hands with incoming guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, who shared MVP honors Friday night at the annual Jordan Brand Classic.
Fox, a point guard, was named MVP of the winning East Team, and Monk, a shooting guard, earned MVP honors for the West Team. The dynamic backcourt duo led all scorers with a combined 45 points. Fox scored a game-high 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting to go along with five rebounds while Monk scored 22 points with five rebounds, three assists and three steals. The Bentonville, Ark., native was 10 for 19 from the floor.
Monk and Fox weren’t the only Kentucky-bound players to shine. With four future Wildcats in the game, more than any other college could claim in the annual high-school all-star showcase, there were plenty of other highlights from UK signees Edrice “Bam” Adebayo and Wenyen Gabriel. Adebayo wowed the crowd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., with 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting – many of the ferocious dunking variety – and five rebounds. Gabriel added four points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The Jordan Brand Classic, which was televised Friday nationally on ESPN2 and won 131-117 by the East, annually features the top high school players from across the country, many of who have gone on to play at Kentucky. Since John Calipari’s arrival at UK, 30 total players have been selected to the Jordan Brand Classic, including: Adebayo, Devin Booker, Isaiah Briscoe, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Fox, Gabriel, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Archie Goodwin, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, Skal Labissiere, Doron Lamb, Marcus Lee, Trey Lyles, Charles Matthews, Monk, Nerlens Noel, Daniel Orton, Alex Poythress, Julius Randle, Marquis Teague, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyler Ulis, John Wall, Kyle Wiltjer and James Young.
Adebayo, Fox and Monk, alongside fellow Kentucky signee Sacha Killeya-Jones, also competed in the McDonald’s All American Game earlier this month. Fox and Gabriel represented the United States last week in the Nike Hoop Summit.
Recently, Adebayo (North Carolina), Fox (Texas) and Monk (Arkansas) were named the Gatorade State Player of the Year for their respective home states. The previous UK record under Calipari was two incoming prospects from a single class to be named their state’s Gatorade Player of the Year (2011 and 2014).
Adebayo will join Kentucky out of High Point Christian Academy in High Point, N.C., where he averaged 18.9 points and 13.0 rebounds his senior season. He led High Point Christian Academy to an appearance in the state title game.
Adebayo, who made the Naismith All-America Second Team, is ranked in the top 10 by ESPN (No. 4) and Rivals (No. 7). Scout (No. 15) and 247Sports (No. 15) tab him as a top-15 prospect in the 2016 class. He has prior USA Basketball experience and was named a MaxPreps All-American in 2013.
Fox, who made the Naismith All-America First Team for high school boys basketball, led Cypress Lakes (Katy, Texas) with a pair of back-to-back 40-point performances in the Texas high school state playoffs before falling in the regional finals. During the regular season he scored 30 or more points in 20 games, 40 or more eight times and even hit the 50-point mark in February.
Fox is rated as high as No. 2 overall in the rankings by 247Sports. Scout ranks him at No. 4, Rivals has him at No. 5 and ESPN tabs him No. 7. Scout and 247Sports both rank the five-star prospect as the No. 1 point guard in the talented 2016 group. He participated in the 2015 USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamp and made the 2015-16 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team in September.
Gabriel is a 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward who averaged 22.0 points, 14.0 rebounds, 7.0 blocks and 6.3 assists at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Mass., this past season. Ranked as high as No. 9 in the national rankings, Gabriel is an inside-out forward with a high motor, length to cause problems inside, and an ability to stretch opposing defenses with a great shooting touch for a big man.
247Sports ranks Gabriel as the ninth-best player overall in the 2016 class. Scout tabs him at No. 10, ESPN places him at No. 15 and Rivals ranks him No. 17. Gabriel is a consensus five-star recruit and was named to the Naismith All-American Team in March.
Monk, a Naismith All-American (second team) is considered the top shooting guard in the class. At 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Monk is a long and athletic guard that can both shoot it and make plays off the dribble. The consensus five-star prospect is ranked No. 5 overall in the 2016 class by 247Sports, No. 6 by Rivals and Scout, and No. 8 by ESPN.
In a season in which he averaged 28.6 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists at Bentonville High School, Monk’s season highlights include a single-game school scoring record with 53 points. He, who was named to the 2015-16 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team in September, led Bentonville to the state championship game.