Chemistry Between Fox, Monk on Display

Sprinting the open floor after a steal, Malik Monk attacked the basket.

Knowing his reputation as an electric finisher, two Cleveland State defenders collapsed on him to prevent a highlight-reel dunk.

“I saw (De’Aaron) Fox out of the corner of my eye and I just knew I was going to throw it then,” Monk said.

No one – other than Fox – could have predicted what Monk would do next.

Monk, in what was somehow the fundamentally correct decision in spite of its unconventionality, tossed the ball delicately off the backcourt. The trailing Fox, seeming to jump to catch it even before it left Monk’s hand, soared to catch the ball and dunk it with two hands. The rout was on from there, with the dunk giving UK a 14-2 lead en route to a 101-70 victory on Wednesday afternoon in Rupp Arena.

“I kind of anticipated it,” Fox said. “But if he goes up for a layup, then you just gotta rebound. He threw the lob. We have chemistry like that. Sometimes I throw him a lob or he’ll throw me a lob. We were on point together on that play. He threw it off the backboard and I dunked it.”

If you were going to try to distill the essence of what Fox and Monk bring to this Kentucky team down to a single play, the lob would have to be the one you’d choose. It started with a great defensive play, with Monk diving into a passing lane and making the steal. Then the otherworldly athleticism and creativity of the pair was on display.

And that chemistry.

“We’ve known each other for a while and we’re cool off the court, so the chemistry just went onto the court,” said Fox, who had his second double-double with 16 points and 11 assists.

Fox and Monk’s relationship began on the AAU circuit, but not by playing on the same team. They established a bond early on in spite of playing against one another, then made a point to follow each other all the way until they set foot on the Kentucky campus this summer.

“It’s crazy,” Monk said. “We just play basketball. Just making the right basketball play. It’s crazy. We never really played that much together.”

They play together plenty now.

John Calipari matched the two up in practices throughout the preseason, knowing the way they played together would be crucial to the Wildcats’ success. His intuition was proven right, as Monk and Fox were the leading scorers on Wednesday with Isaiah Briscoe sitting out due to a back injury.

Monk continued the hot streak he started last Tuesday in a win over Michigan State. The Bentonville, Arkansas, native poured in 24 points and made four 3s on six tries. Fox is taking full advantage of the attention defenses are beginning to pay Monk.

“I know at the beginning, people’s game plans are to keep me out the paint,” Fox said. “If I want to get an assist or know I’m going to get a layup, I go to Malik’s side, just because right now I know they’re not really helping off of him.”

Monk’s reputation in high school was that of a streaky shooter. Though cold streaks come for even the very best, Fox is confident Monk will regularly find a rhythm.

“He can definitely be consistent,” Fox said. “He’s been in the gym. He’s been making shots in practice. He’s looked a lot better than he did the first few weeks and the shootarounds he hasn’t been missing. He’s just playing the way we expect him to play.”

That’s leading to some good time for the Cats.

“Basketball is just fun,” Monk said. “I’m just trying to do everything right. If you do everything right you’re going to have a lot of fun.”