By LARRY VAUGHT
In 24 games this season, Kentucky guard Malik Monk has 55 total rebounds. In the last two games against Florida and LSU, he’s played 70 minutes without getting a rebound.
Kentucky has played nine Southeastern Conference games. In four of them, he had just one rebound. So counting the last two games, he’s had six SEC games with a combined four rebounds.
His best rebounding games were in game three against Michigan State and the first SEC game against Mississippi. He had six rebounds in each game.
Monk, one of UK’s most athletic players and its leading scorer, is averaging one rebound for every 14 minutes played.
Kentucky coach John Calipari was not happy with his lack of rebounding after Tuesday’s win over LSU.
“He’s probably got to play less minutes if he’s not going to rebound the ball. You’re going to have to be in there less. It’s not hard in the equation. There were two or three opportunities, again, and I took him out. You didn’t get the ball, you’re out. It’s just making an effort to make them go get balls,” Calipari said.
The coach might have pulled him from the game, but not for long. He still played 36 minutes.
So how can a player that athletic not get a rebound in 70 minutes?
“Probably should ask him that question. Probably a good one to ask,” Calipari said.
Probably a better one for the coach to answer, but Calipari refused after Tuesday’s game.
On Monday Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said UK’s guards had to rebound better with that obviously meant for Monk. He noted how 5-9 guard Chris Chiozza had nine rebounds against UK.
“He comes up with nine rebounds and some of our bigger, more athletic guards don’t come up with as many as he did,” Barbee said.
Last year Jamal Murray was also a prolific scorer who had issues on defense. But he averaged 5.3 rebounds per game in his only season at UK. Even Tyler Ulis, who is much smaller than Monk, averaged three rebounds per game last year.
Monk didn’t deny before the LSU game that Barbee was talking about him — not De’Aaron Fox or Isaiah Briscoe — needing to rebound more.
“I just gotta stick my head in the lane and stay in the lane way more instead of leaking out,” Monk said. “Any kind of rebound, just stick my head in there and leave whenever I need to, when I feel like (it’s) the right time to leave. Just play the feel of the ball.”
He averaged 7.5 rebounds per game in high school.
“In high school I had to because we’d lose every game if I didn’t rebound. But Cal is telling me right now we’re going to lose every game if I don’t start rebounding right now. So, I just gotta pick it up,” Monk said.
Again, that was Monday and then Tuesday night he got zero rebounds in 36 minutes of play.
Will that lead to less playing time against Alabama Saturday? No way. He’s too valuable on offense.
He’s hitting 48.9 percent overall from the field — 58 percent on 2-point shots, 41 percent on 3-point shots. He’s an 82 percent shooter at the foul line. In SEC play only, he’s averaging 22.8 points per game and hitting 45 percent from 3-point range. Overall, he’s averaging 21.9 points per game.
Even if he doesn’t rebound and gets beat on defense, his scoring makes him too valuable to bench for long periods. He had 47 against North Carolina. He had 37 in the overtime win over Georgia, including 30 the second half.
After Tuesday’s game, Calipari said he would put his team through a three-hour practice and indicated he was not going to tolerate mistakes on the floor.
“We had a couple of guys I had to call in the office. I said, ‘Look, you’re a finisher for us. If you don’t want to shoot open shots, you’re not going to be in the rotation. I’m not going to play you. I don’t need you to do anything else. I don’t need you to drive, and roll baseline, and throw a bounce pass. I don’t need any of that,” Calipari said.
“I need you to shoot open shots.’ Okay, you don’t make them. Then it’s my choice to keep you in the game or let you keep shooting. Malik missed six in a row. Then he made three and we’re up 25. Whatever you’re supposed to do you must do. I’ve made it very clear individually and made it very clear as a team, not mean, I just said, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ ”
Notice, no mention of rebounding.
“Now we got to continue on that path and shore up the problems we’re having defensively. Some of those problems are personnel. They either got to step on the gas or they got to step back. Not being mean, I’m just being real,” Calipari said. “It’s that time. Either you step on the gas and get this right or you got to step back.
“Don’t want to shorten the rotation to five or six guys, but I will if I have to. I’d like to play eight or nine guys so they all get a chance to play, have fun, morale, all that. But you better deserve to be on that court, or… We’re at that time of the season. ”
Now we’ll see if it is the time of the season for Monk to rebound and score or just keep scoring and not rebounding.