CoachSpeak: Malik Newman

Callaway High School head basketball coach David Sanders knows what it takes to play in the Southeastern Conference. The former Ole Miss standout has been there. Now one of Mississippi's most successful prep coaches, Sanders has been a part of an incredible four consecutive state championships. The catalyst of that run, Malik Newman, signed with Mississippi State yesterday.

Sanders has seen Newman develop into one of the nation's most sought after basketball talents. The recruiting process has been a long and winding road for both Newman and Sanders, but the journey appears to be winding down as the five star talent tabbed Mississippi State as his college destination on Friday.

"It's been kind of strenuous at times," Sanders admitted. "Not so much with Malik, but we have had a lot of coaches come through, a lot of great coaches from a lot of great programs. Malik has always been kind of a homebody, so I figured he would end up staying somewhere close to home.

"He had a lot of big programs pulling on him and he could have left Callaway and gone to one of several prep schools. When he decided to stay here and play for us, I thought that said a lot about him. He was a Mississippi kid and he wanted to stay close and I think we're all pleased with his decision."

Basketball is the name of the game in Jackson, Mississippi's capital city. Many of the cities top talents opt for the hardwood over other sports in their quest for college scholarships. During Newman's run as the state's top player, the five star only added to the legacy of Jackson hoops.

"He has meant everything to this program, but not just Callaway," Sanders said of Newman. "He's meant everything to JPS (Jackson Public Schools) and the state of Mississippi. Malik has never played in front of a crowd that was not a sell out. I think everywhere he has been, he has been a big draw. He has been great for all of us.

"We have some other kids who are being recruited by schools who would have never had a chance to see them had it not been for Malik. His impact has been felt statewide and even nation wide. He is a great kid who is marketable. He is the kind of kid you can build a brand around. He is a great get for (Mississippi) State."

The sky appears to be the limit for Newman, but his high school coach reports that he has some areas of his game that need some polish before he takes to the SEC floor.

"The number one thing is that he is going to have to take better care of his body," Sanders said. "He is not a young kid anymore. He is going to have to get his rest. Stretching was a big thing that I was on him about. He works out so much and he takes so much out of his body that he has to learn to put it back in.

"On the next level, things are only going to intensify. He is going to have to work on understanding other peoples' game plans against him. He will have to watch film more, because people are going to be game planning for him a lot more now. The guys are going to be bigger and stronger, so he is going to have to do a better job of film preparation and things like that. I think it will be an easy transition for him."

As one of America's top prospects for the 2015 signing class, Newman has demonstrated the ability to win games and win lots of them in a variety of ways. Sanders reports that Newman has developed into such a well rounded player that it is difficult to pinpoint his biggest strengths.

"The best thing about him is that there is no best thing," Sanders said. "He is good all around in every aspect of basketball. If I had to name one thing it would have to be that he is so coachable. He is not go you have to worry about showing up for practice. You don't have to worry about him working hard, because he sets the bar so high. On top of all of that, he gets his school work done. He is a great example for everybody else. You can be a great player, be a great student and still be coachable at the same time."

The former Ole Miss standout reports that Newman has already begun teasing him about putting on some Maroon and White and cheering for the Bulldogs over his own Ole Miss Rebels when the teams meet later this season.

"We have already had that conversation," Sanders said with a laugh. "No Maroon for me. Maybe I'll put on some black or white, but no Maroon. I just can't do that, but I am going to be there to support him every step of the way. I told Coach (Ben Howland) to save me a seat right behind the bench, because I am going to be there to support him."

Speaking of Howland, without his appearance on the Bulldog basketball scene, the Malik Newman story may have had a different ending. Sanders reports that the Bulldogs were always a factor, but Howland's resume made them a much bigger one as Newman's final deliberations were made.

"Ben Howland comes in and he is a proven guy," Sanders said. "I am not taking anything away from Rick Ray. Rick Ray is a good friend of mine and he did a great job recruiting Malik.

"When Ben came in, he brought that NBA pedigree with him. I believe he gives State instant credibility when it comes to the NBA. Malik wanted to be a one and done kid and Ben Howland has dealt with all of that before.

"I think hiring him was a great move on Mississippi State's part."

As the recruiting process now winds to a close, Sanders is hopeful that more prospects from the Magnolia State will elect to follow in Newman's footsteps and stay home for their college careers.

"To keep a guy like Malik in state is really big for the entire state," Sanders explained. "This sort of thing doesn't normally happen. You have had guys like Johnny O'Bryant and Isaiah Cannon who have left the state. We normally lose a lot of our big time players out of state. Hopefully, Malik is starting a trend to keep our best guys here."

David Sanders signed with Ole Miss out of Provine High School after a senior season as Mississippi's high school player of the year. Sanders split time between Tallahassee Community College and Northwest Mississippi Community College before signing with the Rod Barnes' Rebels a second time as part of the 1999 signing class.

After a stint playing overseas, Sanders accepted the head coaching position at Northwest Rankin before taking over at Callaway for mentor Wayne Brent, a former Ole Miss assistant who left for the top spot at Jackson State. Under Sanders' direction, Callaway has won two state titles bringing the Chargers' run to four straight state championships all of which saw major contributions from the newest Bulldog, Malik Newman.

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