Stars Aligning?

Saturday is shaping up to be an historical day for Ole Miss athletics. In more ways than one.


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The No. 11 Ole Miss football team is set to host No. 3 Alabama at 2:30 p.m. on CBS. ESPN’s flagship college football program, College GameDay, will broadcast live from the Grove in the morning. A star-studded collection of prospects, many of which are rated as five-star and four-star recruits, will make their way to campus.

And five-star guard Malik Newman, rated the No. 10 prospect in the country by Scout.com, will be among them.

Yes, Saturday is an important day for Ole Miss basketball, too. Newman is scheduled to take an unofficial visit to Ole Miss, the first campus he will step foot on as a senior. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Newman, of Callaway High School in Jackson, Miss., is a member of the recruiting class of 2015.

“In terms of kids in this class who will make an immediate impact, he might actually be No. 1, at the top of the list,” Brian Snow, a national basketball recruiting analyst for Scout.com, said. “What he does well translates directly to college with no concern, and that’s get shots up and score. In terms of his long-range potential, he might not have as much as some. But in terms of his ability to put the ball in the basket and be productive from day one, he’s going to be as productive as anybody as a freshman.”


Five-star guard Malik Newman will visit Ole Miss Saturday.

“Malik Newman is an elite scorer and one of the premier players in the 2015 class,” Evan Daniels, a national basketball recruiting analyst for Scout.com, said. “He’s equipped to put up large point totals and he usually does. He’s as good as it gets in the 2015 class at creating his own shot opportunities. He knows how to create space, can heat up from long-range and is a very good finisher, especially considering his size when he attacks the basket.”

While a surprising development to some, getting Newman to campus is, put simply, a matter of hard work on the recruiting trail paying off for Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy and staff.

Ole Miss, according to sources familiar with its recruiting efforts, feels it has become a real player for Newman, especially in the last few months. The Rebels are selling Newman on being the face of the program to open their new arena, “The Pavilion at Ole Miss,” in December of 2015, as well as what adding Newman would mean to the school from a historical perspective.

Immediately upon signing, he would become one of the best players in program history, a point Ole Miss is hammering home. Another selling point is Kennedy’s success with developing guards, from Terrico White, a second-round selection by the Detroit Pistons in the 2010 NBA Draft, and Chris Warren, who ranks third in school history in career points, to current All-SEC point guard Jarvis Summers, also from Jackson.

“I think it would be one of the biggest stories in the history of Ole Miss sports,” former Ole Miss guard David Sanders, now the head coach at Callaway, said of the possibility of the Rebels signing his star pupil. “I think it would be a program-changer. The stars are aligning in a lot of ways with the opening of the arena. He’d be opening it up, along with all the other different, positive things they’re doing down there.

“Landing Malik would be more significant for Ole Miss basketball than (former No. 1 overall prospect Robert) Nkemdiche signing with Ole Miss football. I think it would put Ole Miss on the map and instantly take them from a top-6 program in the SEC to one of the best in the nation.”

“I think it would be one of the biggest stories in the history of Ole Miss sports. I think it would be a program-changer. The stars are aligning in a lot of ways.”

Sanders will join Newman on the visit. Newman, the top-ranked combo guard in the country, is expected to announce his top-5 schools prior to his senior season. He’ll take his first official visit to Texas A&M Oct. 11.

“I just tell him it’s going to be a great time. Ole Miss is a great place,” Sanders said. “Not only that, Ole Miss people are known for taking care of their own. With them building the new arena and everything down there, I think it’s setting up for Ole Miss to have a real shot at him. Coach Kennedy has done a great job recruiting him. If he were to go there, Ole Miss would build the team around him. For Malik, it’s a good situation. It’s a good roster, a veteran group. I think Ole Miss will have a real shot at him.”

Newman recently had in-home visits with coaches from Kansas, Kentucky and N.C. State, according to the (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger. Saturday will be the first game he’s attended at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Sanders played at Ole Miss from 2000 to 2003. He was a member of the “Provine Posse” with Justin Reed and Aaron Harper, a trio that led the Rebels to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, including their best-ever, Sweet Sixteen finish in 2001.

He averaged 9.7 points per game for his career, as well as 3.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 28.7 minutes.

“When I was coming out, it was a much different thing,” Sanders said. “Players didn’t have social media and a lot of those things going on. Malik, he’s bombarded with texts and calls and Twitter posts and everything like that. I definitely wouldn’t want to be in his shoes, but he’s handled himself well.


Five-star guard Malik Newman.

“In the end, the decision is going to be Malik’s. It’s not going to be his dad, it’s not going to be me. Really, my job is to support him, and I’ll support him wherever he goes.”

Newman, who has represented the United States in the FIBA U-17 tournaments, holds a laundry list of offers, including Kansas, Connecticut, Duke, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. He’s averaged 23 points and five rebounds the past two seasons.

“He’s a good scorer of the ball in a variety of ways,” Snow said. “He’s a pretty good athlete and he’s got decent size for the position. But it’s just his natural ability to put the ball in the basket that separates him. He’s not a point guard, but he can handle the ball pretty well. At the end of the day, he’s going to score a lot of points no matter where he goes and he’s going to be a guy that’s a threat at all times when he’s on the court.”


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