One-on-One With Jeff Newberry: Part Two

Jeff Newberry feels right at home in Stillwater. The junior college honorable mention All-American arrived at Oklahoma State in June as one of six newcomers expected to play for the Cowboys next season. We recently visited with Newberry about a variety of topics, including playing baseball with Bryce Harper while growing up, attending his fourth college in four years, and his love for reading.

The 6-2, 190-pound guard signed with OSU in November. He averaged 13.5 points, 3.7 assists and 2.1 rebounds as a sophomore this past season while earning honorable mention All-America recognition in leading New Mexico Junior College to a 27-7 record and the NJCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship.

Newberry, originally from Atlanta, redshirted his first season at Ole Miss before transferring to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Junior College in Miami, Okla., where he averaged a team-high 14.4 points, 4.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds as a freshman. He then moved on to New Mexico Junior College for the 2013-14 season. OSU will be his fourth program in the past four years.

Here is the second part of the series in which we visit with Newberry.

The expectations for this team probably won’t be what they were entering last season. Is that good for this team?
Newberry: Honestly, we had a meeting right when we all got here (early in the summer). We honestly don’t want it any other way. We saw the preseason polls but we’re blocking out what people are saying. A lot of people don’t know the weapons that we’re working with here. They’re sleeping on us and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

A lot of Oklahoma State fans have never seen Jeff Newberry play. Describe for us what type of player you are.
Newberry: I play hard. I’m very athletic. I know the last few years a lot of people have said I’m flashy at times, but I don’t think I’m flashy. I just think I’m playing my game. I’m just an athletic, scoring guard who can also pass. I just want to bring whatever to the table that we need.

What do you take for being at Ole Miss as a true freshman three years ago that can help you now? Or is there anything you can gain from that experience?
Newberry: When I first got to Ole Miss my freshman year I thought I was where I needed to be in basketball. But the biggest reality was I saw those guys were just as athletic as I was, so I felt like I wasn’t going to get as much playing time as I expected as a 17-year-old. I feel like coming back to play at this level after two years of junior college has helped me a lot, it’s humbled me a lot, and it’s taught me to never stop working because there’s always somebody as good as you, if not better.

Tell me something that the average person doesn’t know about Jeff Newberry.
Newberry: I like to read a lot of books. A lot of people probably don’t think I like to read, and I do play some video games with my teammates, but I also just like to read a lot.

Any special type of book?
Newberry: No, any type of book. My mom makes me read a lot of stuff because she knows that I’m a reader. I like to read a lot of different types of books.

What are you reading right now?
Newberry: I’m actually reading a book called “Toughness,” by Jay Bilas. It’s been a great book so far.

So growing up did you make your mom take you to the library a couple of times a week?
Newberry: I was always anxious to go to the book fair. My mom would give me $5 to go to the book fair, and I’m trying to figure out which books I’m going to buy. My friends were always asking, ‘why do you want to read?’ But I have always enjoyed reading.

What are some other books you’ve read in the last few years that have had an impact on you?
Newberry: A lot of books that I like to read are movie-based books. I read “Man on Fire” (by A.J. Quinnell) which starred Denzel Washington in the movie. That was a very long book. It probably took me a month and a half to read. I like reading the Harry Potter novels. A lot of people ask me why I like reading them but I really enjoy them. I like reading any kind of books as long as they are interesting.

Did your mom influence you and make you want to read growing up?
Newberry: They said my mom was the brainiac of the group (in college), and she was always into books. She didn’t really push me toward books and reading but she knew that I liked to read, so she didn’t want me to be the typical kid that grows up and does nothing but plays sports.

Your favorite sport growing up was baseball, correct?
Newberry: I always liked baseball. I played on travel teams growing up with Bryce Harper (of the Washington Nationals) and Delino DeShields Jr. (the eighth overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft). Delino DeShields is my best friend. We grew up together. I met him when I was 10, and I started playing with their travel team. Baseball was always my number one sport, and basketball was always secondary to me growing up. When I got to about the 11th grade I was talking to (baseball) scouts, and was probably going to get drafted my senior year. But I decided to stop playing baseball because it just got boring to me. My dad was so upset that I decided not to play any longer, but I just love basketball. I quit playing before my senior year in high school.

What position did you play?
Newberry: I was a shortstop. I was ranked the number one shortstop when I was 12.

Why did you pick basketball over baseball?
Newberry: I just went with my gut. I feel like I was just playing baseball when I got to high school because other people wanted me to play baseball. But I always loved basketball. I wasn’t as good at basketball as I was in baseball. I just felt like God pushed me toward basketball, and that’s what I wanted to do. It’s paid off in the long run.

Do you ever second guess that decision, especially when you see Bryce Harper playing for the Washington Nationals and Delino DeShields Jr. with a chance to play in the major leagues?
Newberry: Coming up, we always knew that Bryce and Delino were going to be the ones that succeeded in baseball. I was a good hitter but I wasn’t a home run hitter like those guys were. I was more of a singles, doubles, triples-type hitter, and a great shortstop. But who knows if I would have got drafted and went on to do what they did. Bryce was always unbelievable, and Delino too. But there are some days that I sit back and wonder. But I believe my time is coming.

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