Newman turning out better than most expected

ATHENS – Steve Newman was the first player to sign a letter-of-intent with Dennis Felton at Georgia, and for the last two years it has looked like he'd be the first one paved over in the Bulldogs' rebuilding process.

Newman, though, has doggedly held on to a place with this team, in no small part due to his claiming a very specific place on the court. The 3-point buzzer beater that Newman hit from 26-feet to beat Arkansas on Wednesday night was no fluke.

The senior forward is shooting a Bulldog-best 52 percent from behind the 3-point line heading into today's 1:30 p.m. game against No. 10 Alabama on CBS, and his favorite spot is top of the key, straightaway, the same path he used to beat the Razorbacks.

"That's where I am 85 percent of the time I'm in the game," Newman said. "So every day after practice and in the offseason, I'll shoot as many shots from there as I can so I'm pretty comfortable up there."

In Georgia's high-low offense, the Bulldogs work to make sure the 6-foot-9 Newman is the post player in the high position almost exclusively. He has hit 15-of-29 from behind the arc overall, and most of those have come from his favorite spot on the floor.

"He works on that particular area a lot because that's where he's going to be most of the time," Coach Dennis Felton said. "When we brought him in, we thought he was a good shooter. Between his freshman and sophomore years, we wanted to transform him into a very good 3-point shooter. It's been a thrust of his game since his freshman year."

Newman has honed his touch in countless post-practice shooting contests with assistant coach Mike Jones.

"It's not just being able to make shots, it's being able to make shots under pressure, so if you have a little competition, it adds a little pressure," Newman said.

His pressure shot Wednesday was deemed the No. 1 play of the day on ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 the next day.

"That's pretty exciting," Newman said. "It's always been a little dream to be on the Top 10, much less No. 1."

Newman, a native of Orlando, Fla., is averaging 5.8 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game, and even those pedestrian numbers are more than many thought he would have this year.

The addition of forwards Takais Brown and Albert Jackson coupled with the projected development of Terrence Woodbury and Rashaad Singleton looked like it might equal the end of the line for Newman, who started 28 games as a sophomore, when the Bulldogs were at the low point of their turnaround.

"It seems like sometimes that's the response I get from people that aren't part of the program, but I've never gotten anything like that from the coaches or my teammates," Newman said. "They know that I deserve to be out there and playing."

He's averaging 18.2 minutes per game, more than in any season expect 2005.

"What he has done in terms of transforming is he's playing harder and better than ever before this year so where people might have thought he would fade more to the background, he hasn't faded as much as some people might have anticipated because he's worked harder and played harder," Felton said. "Therefore he's found a way to continue to compete and is playing his best basketball."


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