Malik Newman: Junior Primer

Mississippi has produced some top athletes over the years, and Newman stands next in line with a ticket to potential stardom.

It didn't take long to hear the name Malik Newman. He was unavoidable. As a freshman in the 2011-12 season, Newman frequently topped the 20-point mark and appeared set to follow in the footsteps of Monta Ellis and other prep greats from the Magnolia State.

But what many didn't realize nationally was that Newman could emulate a legacy much closer to home. His father, Horatio Webster, starred in junior college in the 1990s and earned plaudits as one of the players in the country — juco, Division I or otherwise.

He signed with Mississippi State and averaged 17 points per game in two seasons with the Bulldogs, earning All-SEC honors. At 6-7, 240 pounds, he was a little small for the NBA, but clearly he possessed blue-chip bloodlines to pass on to his son.

And Newman likely will become even better than his old man. For perspective, he led all scorers on the EYBL circuit in 2013, rolling the scoreboard even more prolifically than elite seniors such as Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Stanley Johnson and Rashad Vaughn. Just how good is this guy?

The answer is that, for now, he is's No. 1 ranked junior in America. Some small-ish two guards ranked in the top five have failed to meet expectations in recent years, and definitely Newman must address that issue at the next level. Still, athleticism and skill that meets with ultra production warrants respect and praise.

On a relatively weak team, he carried the scoring load. Newman's qualities include an explosive first step, dynamic mid-range shooting game, three-point range and agile finishing in traffic. He's a multi-tiered scorer with confidence and maturity who also possesses the kind of body that will enable him to become a backcourt battering ram in the future.

If you were looking to nitpick, however, Newman's inefficiencies would be the starting point. He fired up a lot of shots and hit at a wasteful 42 percent from the field, dropping to 35 percent at the Peach Jam. He's unquestionably a volume scorer, and sometimes a player's inefficiency can be difficult for coaches to beat out of him.

But don't expect much beating to occur in the first place. Newman's penchant for scoring outbursts makes him so much of a threat that even his bad shots command intense focus from defenses and opportunities open up for teammates all over the court.

The 2013 summer proved illuminating. Newman teamed with Emmanuel Mudiay for a different team in late July, and in Las Vegas that duo squared off against Tyler Dorsey and Daniel Hamilton. Each player performed impressively, and Newman scored 32 points along with eight threes. He proved that month that he could play alongside another elite guard, and obviously as he moves up the career ladder his teammates and opponents will continue to bring more substance to the table.

Newman's challenge this year on the travel circuit will be to prove that he belongs in the top spot despite being a little small. He doesn't project as a point guard, at least for college, while some of the other contenders — such as Ivan Rabb and Ben Simmons — are taller in both an absolute and a relative sense.

For the NBA, he'll need to tighten up his dribbling slightly and likely transition to point guard. Yes, I'm assuming he'll make the league. After all, we're not talking about a guy who's playing for scholarships or prep All-American honors. Newman settled those issues long ago.

He has succeeded against the very best competition the country has to offer, and there's still one more year left to play. His college offer list is perfunctory and a little silly; he'll go wherever he chooses to go. Newman has every reason to aspire to the highest level of the sport, and I'm not betting against his advancing to the top.

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