Because, White is just as excited that Newman is taking his game to Humphrey Coliseum.
“It was amazing to watch him play. I appreciated it,” White said of Newman’s high school career. “Now I get to watch him play college for a year or two, however long it takes!”
White, close friend of old Bulldog teammate Horatio Webster, attended Newman’s signing with Mississippi State. It was another step for young Newman, and another benchmark of sorts for White as well. “I’ve been around the family a long time and watched him as he grew and got better each year. He’s been working hard his whole life and it’s finally paying off.
“It’s a happy day and an exciting day for Bulldog nation!”
It’s a satisfying time for White, too. See, he has had a hand in bringing Malik Newman along. Not that White claims credit, understand. But if the younger guard learned a trick or two from the older one, well, it was only natural.
Except that White makes it clear, Newman WAS the natural.
“Man, when I saw the kid in fifth grade, I was like he was going to be something special.”
He is. He absolutely is. Four consecutive state high school championships, repeated Mr. Basketball honors and all sorts of other awards and attentions, show just how special Newman has become. At least one service ranks him the nation’s #1 shooting guard prospect; everyone else has Newman in their top-ten and projects him as a first-class combo guard in college.
They could have saved time and effort scouting and just asked White’s opinion, based on first-hand observation. Made directly on the court.
“We used to play one-on-one all the time, since sixth or seventh grade. And (White was) playing defense, hitting him hard. Now? I can’t do nothing with him now so I don’t even try!”
Bulldog fans might need reminding of White’s own roundball resume. A three-time 1A state championship guard in his own right at Durant High, he became a junior college All-American before moving on to Mississippi State. Where he re-joined with Webster on a third team together, of course.
For both his winters in the Hump, White led the Southeastern Conference in assists and averaged 11.6 points. He left State #5 in career assists, for just two seasons; and top-ten for three-point baskets. So yeah, the guy has a State track record to respect.
And, authority for speaking on this backcourt Bulldog to be. “Malik is on another level right now. He’s different,” said White.
“You can’t rattle him, he doesn’t fold under pressure. Always wanting the big shot, everything. Just plays hard the whole time.”
For a very, very long time that is. “When he was a baby we had a basketball in his hand.” Obviously Newman isn’t a baby any more; 3,100 points and 300 assists in his high school career show that. Still, White does have a bit of expert advice what Newman now needs to do to continue such success at a higher level of the game.
“You’ve got to get used to guys picking him up the whole-court. He has to work on his defense because it’s going to be guys out there quicker, or maybe shorter and faster, or whatever. He has to work on defense. The rest of it will take care of itself.”
By the ‘rest’ of it White means using what he ranks as Newman’s greatest gift.
“Shooting. Shooting, absolutely.”
True, many a young man can make shots on the driveway court. Or when unguarded in high school. Or even against decent prep defenses. That’s not the short of shooting White is talking about. Newman is different. Coming off his hand the basketball seems sure to sink.
The best part of it to White? “He constantly worked on that shot. And as the years went on he got deeper and deeper. It’s pretty to watch!”
For a fan base starved of first-class offensive threats that’s a beautiful thing to hear. Sure, spring excitement over a game-changing signing is what Bulldog basketball needed. It was the best possible first effect of Ben Howland’s hiring as Mississippi State head coach.
But ultimately off-season excitement must become real season success to maintain new momentum. Adding a truly elite young talent who brings equal work ethic to a rebuilding program is an all-around win.
White can’t wait to see Newman step on to the college stage. “It’s just amazing that he finally became a Bulldog,” he said. “It’s just going to be a joy to watch.”