“I thought it was introducing us to student-athletes!” Newman smiled. What it really gave was a taste of anonymity. Just one Dog in a pound of peers, right?
“I think the football players in there are highly-ranked also. So it wasn’t like I’m here, Malik! It was actually great because a lot of attention wasn’t on me. So the teacher didn’t give me a hard time!”
To be sure there are a lot of well-rated Mississippi State freshmen come to campus for this first summer semester. None arrive with quite the reputation of Malik Newman. The highest-rated guard prospect in the country arrived on campus Tuesday and has already been hit with the full scope of college work.
Newman ran through this debut day of classes. Study hall nine to eleven this morning. Treatment at noon, then class at one. “From there you go work out, then weights. And from weights, playing. It’s all about managing time right now.”
More than time is being managed. For all his high school heroics, Newman just stepped into a new world. Where a new Mississippi State coach was waiting to start showing all this impressive rookie class the ropes.
One day down, and so far so good according to Newman as he really gets to know Ben Howland.
“It was great. Coach Howland did a lot of explaining to us, teaching us about things that we have to work on to develop great habits once the season comes. So it was a great workout for the first day.”
The first day was spent working in the Mize Pavilion with mostly fellow guards along with fellow frosh forward Aric Holman. Word is Howland, who is free to have everyone he wants together for allotted hours in summer per NCAA policy, prefers to keep player-groups together by positions.
Newman found out quickly that this is not a coach who wastes a summer minute, either. “The toughest part is Coach Howland is so detailed. He wants everything done a certain way. That was the toughest part of the day.”
“All his little details and things make you realize there are some things in high school you can get away with, that you can’t get away with in college.” Such as, Malik? What were a few examples Howland immediately went to work on with him?
“Just like always bending your knees in plays. There are certain ways you’re supposed to step-through when you’re trying to get over a screen. And swinging the ball. Just the little things, really.”
Now, many a youngster who has lived at the highest heights of high school and summer team life might wonder why a college coach would immediately tear into what made a kid a star. Give Newman credit. Whether of his own understanding, or as likely having a father who played Bulldog basketball himself, this young man knows the score.
“Because I know at the end of the day we have the same common goal. That’s for us to win. So I have no problem with him trying to tear us down and build us back up.”
Mississippi State has some brilliant blocks to build with now that Newman, Holman, and Quindarry Weatherspoon are present and practicing. That doesn’t diminish though what older Dogs are expected to provide now. Instead of resenting competition from kids, junior point guard I.J. Ready is already teaching Newman college tricks of the trade. Seniors Fred Thomas, Craig Sword, and Gavin Ware have welcomed the pups to Humphrey Coliseum. They even spent evening hours Wednesday chatting with their newest teammates.
So as to club chemistry, “It’s great,” Newman reported. “All of us have the same goal. Some of those guys have been here and haven’t had the season they wanted. So I think from the first day that we clicked.”
Meanwhile Newman can relax around his player-peers in these first summer semester classes. Nobody is likely to ask for an autograph in this bunch considering the new players are joining a football team with title ambitions, a women’s basketball program on the fast track, softball and track and other ranked MSU teams.
Now that Newman and company are here, the spotlight should again turn to roundball. Newman knows his own ambition on that front.
“I think we can be the start of a new era in Mississippi State basketball.”