On July 6, the Sacramento Kings were able to make a splash in the free agent pool by signing guard Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox’s college teammate. An acquisition that immediately addressed their lack of shooters to spread the floor.
But why would Monk, who had a prominent role playing beside LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers leave for a division rival? In a story by Jason Anderson Sacramento of The Sacramento Bee, he highlighted how the relationship Monk built with Fox when they were kids played a major role in his decision.
“Him and De’Aaron are extremely close, and they’ve been close since high school, so I would say the overall factor with Fox, their relationship and the friendship they’ve always had, definitely played a big role,” the source said.
Like many of the players in the NBA, Fox and Monk have known each other since their days playing AAU together for EYBL Elite. Both players were also 2016 McDonald’s All-Americans and were Co-MVPs of the Jordan Brand Classic the same year.
THE GOAT AAU TEAM?— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) August 3, 2020
PG: De'Aaron Fox / Trae Young
SG Gary Trent Jr. / Malik Monk
SF: Jayson Tatum / Jonathan Isaac / Miles Bridges
PF: Harry Giles / Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Mo Bamba / Wendell Carter Jr. pic.twitter.com/luLYM9B8mF
Due to their success there, they decided to continue their success as a duo at the University of Kentucky where they electrified the college basketball world with their athleticism and NBA-ready skills. Monk would go on to win SEC Rookie of the Year (2017) and Player of the year (2017), while Fox would be named SEC tournament MVP (2017).
They would go on to lose in a nail-biter to North Carolina, the eventual champion, in the Elite 8 of the March Madness tournament. However, both players were able to establish themselves as NBA Draft lottery picks with Fox being selected by the Kings with the No. 5 overall pick and Monk selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 11th.
“They speak all the time,” a source said. “They’re still in their college group chat, so they speak every day. Those guys are real brothers, so I’m excited for them both.”
Both players are still only 24 years old and were born only 46 days apart, a few hours from each other. Though it has been five years since they separated, they couldn’t have picked a better time to reunite.
Fox and the Kings are at a very crucial point in franchise history. Not only have they failed to reach the playoffs even once since he was drafted, leading to a record-breaking 16-year playoff drought, but they haven’t even won 40 games in a season. However, after making changes to every facet of the organization and trading for an All-Star big man in Domantas Sabonis, they feel as though they are on the verge of something special.
Monk is in a similar place in his career. He was also unable to make the postseason during his four-year tenure with the Hornets or during his stint with the Lakers last season. But unlike Fox, he has not been able to cement himself as a franchise player with star potential.
However, by joining the Kings, Monk has placed himself in a position to rejuvenate his career and help a hurting city change their fate alongside someone he considers family.
In an interview with Jonathan Bradley, social media manager for the Sacramento Kings, Malik Monk brought light to his relationship with Fox and why he was excited to come to Sacramento. He mentioned how he is excited to play with the likes of Sabonis and Harrison Barnes, as well as his ability to fit into their style of play.
What’s also intriguing is the unselfish mindset he is coming into this season with. Many players that sign with a struggling franchise join with the intention of taking over. However, Monk has other plans that his coaches and teammates will surely appreciate.
“Doing whatever to help the team win, man, it don’t matter. Anything they need, whether it’s me passing the ball, whether it’s me scoring, whether it’s me defending,” said Monk. “I think I can help some of the younger guys out with the experiences I’ve had. I’m in the middle. It’s guys been here longer than me too, so I can take things from them and add it to my package that I can give to the younger generation coming up, too.”
De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk went STUPUD !! In college— Ben Stinar (@BenStinar) July 7, 2022
Now they’re on the same team in the LEAGUE pic.twitter.com/DeyyQ3NxJr
Along with what he will provide the team, Monk also mentioned that he is going to bring the best out of Fox like he did at Kentucky. He believes that their brotherly competitiveness will force Fox to play more aggressively and flashy like how he played in his early career with the Kings. Noting that he is going increase the number of Fox’s dunk attempts.
“He’s gonna have to because I’m gonna be doing the same thing,” Monk said.
It’s not often Kings fans have the chance to get truly excited for a free agent pickup. However, the decision to reunite Fox and Monk is one of the more enjoyable moves made the Kings’ front office in recent memory. Even though they swapped jersey numbers, they will be looking to recreate the same magic they showed in the past.