The Malik Newman experience kicked into gear right away. As a freshman in 2011-12, Newman put himself on the map thanks to multiple, prolific scoring outbursts.
Not to overlook his publicity head start. His father, Horatio Webster, starred in junior college and then advanced to Mississippi State. Newman clearly had pedigree, but he also obviously possessed his own immense talent.
Newman truly blew up during the 2013 travel season. Competing against players a year older, he was one of the year's most explosive scorers. He averaged 25 points per game for the Jackson Tigers on the EYBL circuit, knocking down 37 percent on threes and shooting 112-137 (82 percent) to blend outside/inside balance.
He at times has drawn consideration as the top prospect in the Class of 2015, albeit recently overshadowed slightly by bigger contemporaries. Newman split his 2014 travel season contributions between the Nike and Under Armour circuits, and he missed last summer's Peach Jam due to a hand injury.
He once again proved to be a show-stopping offensive performer, however, scoring 23 points per contest in the 12 games he did play with the Tigers.
This section doesn't need to get complicated. Newman ranks among the best scorers in all of high school basketball, because he possesses a brilliant complement of tangibles and intangibles to consistently erupt for big numbers: Strength, athleticism, shooting touch, body control, intelligence, canny instincts, toughness and confidence.
What separates him from many other scorers is that he doesn't require help. Newman certainly operates fine with an on-ball or off-ball screen, but he just as capably creates in space without assistance. He elevates quickly for long jump shots and is a contested shooter, clearly a vital skill for him as he progresses through college and (likely) into the NBA.
Newman also drives powerfully to the basket. He's already strong and will become even more muscular as he develops. His first step is above-average, even if not truly elite, and he extends well at the rim while also throwing down some dunks. The fact that he can score even when defended closely largely explains why he's such a threat.
|Newman's high school stops included time with USA Basketball|
His ballhandling is solid for the wing and he should become a fine defender, capable of defending many wings and perhaps even the occasional point guard in college.
Newman's desire to score and focus are nearly unmatched. He boasts top-shelf concentration and finishes through contact. He has a knack for using the glass and thus picks up and-one opportunities after getting fouled and then changing his shot mid-air.
Shot selection has been a persistent issue, a common criticism directed at big-time perimeter scorers and one that became evident for Newman this postseason. He shot just 42 percent from the floor overall in both 2013 and 2014 while playing for the Tigers, and he's capable of better. More troubling, his three-point percentage dipped from 37 percent in 2013 all the way down to 30 percent in 2014.
Everyone is entitled to a slump, of course, but hopefully he'll become more efficient, not less efficient, as he enters the sport's highest levels.
Otherwise, it's mostly a physical thing. Players his size — 6-3 and not particularly long — sometimes have difficulties at the professional level if they can't play the point. Newman projects as a pure wing, in my opinion, so he'll have to prove those concerns unfounded in the eyes of scouts.
For Mississippi State's purposes, the goal will be to facilitate open looks for him within the offense so that he doesn't feel compelled to create his own on a too-frequent basis. That will become particularly vital when Newman finds himself matched against quick, rangy wing defenders. At both the recent McDonald's and Jordan Brand practices, players fitting that style sometimes bothered him.
However it goes in terms of his ultimate, hypothetical draft position, Newman unquestionably is one of the country's best prospects. His numbers don't lie, and his strength and the verve with which he competes should enable him to acclimate quickly to older opponents in the SEC.
At MSU under the tutelage of first year coach Ben Howland, Newman should compete for all-conference honors as a freshman, even if he doesn't raise his efficiency drastically. To rise to the All-American level, he'll need to knock down shots closer to his 2013 percentage from deep while obviously still producing big raw numbers as well. Efficiency will define exactly how effective, or even dominant, he can be.
His presence in the Bulldogs' lineup will generate a buzz that's rare for the program, and he possesses the talent to deliver on the attention. He needs to tweak his style just a touch, but hopefully he'll pick up some finer points over the course of the season and truly get rolling by next spring.
Down the road he'll face further challenges against NBA athletes, but first things first, it's time for him to display his prodigious abilities for the home state Bulldogs.