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Jackson, Miss. – After leading Callaway High School to its third consecutive state championship in March, Malik Newman evaluated his plans for the summer and where he would compete on the AAU circuit.
Coming off his junior season that solidified him as the deadliest scoring threat in the Class of 2015 having averaged 29.2 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game, some questioned whether Newman has reached his peak and that his game was possibly done progressing.
However, those who know Newman best know he doesn’t idle well at all, and there’s nothing that draws more fear from the nation’s top-ranked guard than complacency.
“I know for a fact that I still have a lot to prove,” Newman said. “I need to get better in everything this summer – ball handling, my defense, my shot selection, distributing the ball to my teammates – I have a lot to work on.”
For not having planned a busy summer, Newman has certainly stayed active on and off the court by leading his AAU team to a Peach Jam berth, returning to his ways of working out two to three times a day and announcing his plans to be a package deal with Diamond Stone – the top center in the country – all before the open evaluation period begins in July.
After separately detailing their package deal plans, Newman and Stone received a lot of attention about the possibility of playing together in college.
“It’s been crazy,” Newman said. “I probably got about 200 hundred tweets about it after I said we want to do it. A lot of people are asking us how it’s going to pan out and how we plan on making it work. It’s been a lot.”
While Newman hasn’t publicly released his list, the guard said Kansas, Kentucky, UConn and Mississippi State are the programs recruiting him the hardest. Back in April, Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie had in-home visits with the Jackson native and his package deal partner.
“I’m going to release my list of about five or six schools by the end of the summer,” Newman said. “I’ll have my schools, Diamond will have his and then we’ll go forward as far as visits and narrowing down our lists together.”
It’s no secret that high-level players end up on the same teams in college. Top-ranked recruits have often talked about being package deals but so few ever come to fruition. While he’s excited about the possibility of playing with Stone again (the two first played together when competing on Team USA’s U16 team last summer), Newman has some trepidation over the entire deal.
“My only fear if this package deal is with all the hype and publicity that we’re getting,” Newman said. “If we got to college and didn’t do what we were supposed to people would just forget about us.”
At the completion of the spring AAU season, ESPN, Scout and 247Sports released their updated rankings for the Class of 2015. Newman, who held down the consensus No. 1 spot for more than six months, is no longer the top-ranked player in class saturated by power forwards and centers.
Still, he remains the top-ranked guard in his class and continues to impress college coaches and scouts as the country’s most explosive scoring guard who can make the difficult shot when needed and has a developed midrange game, the ability to attack the rim and shoot the three.
Though Newman is defined as a scoring combo-guard, several scouts have said he needs to flush out his role as a true point guard or shooting guard in order to advance at the next level. But at this point in his career, the Callaway star feels like perfecting both will only expand his capabilities and stock at the next level.
“Whatever system I get into may need be to be a point guard or may need me to play shooting guard, so I just continue to work on both,” he said. “You can’t be limited and sometimes it’s good to play off the ball.”
The rest of the summer includes participating in the Reebok Classic Breakout and Nike Peach Jam in July and hoping to qualify for Team USA’s U17 team that will compete in Dubai this August.
With his senior season nearly five months away and a college decision to be made in the future, Newman is more determined than ever to seize the moment and show that there’s more in his arsenal ready to be released.
“With the rankings, I look at it like it’s a number beside my name and that’s it,” he said. “I know what I’ve got to work on this summer and I’m in the gym everyday trying to get better before the season starts.”
Extended Q&A with Malik Newman
Q: You’ve heard from tons of college coaches throughout your recruitment. Who was the first?
A: The first college coach I talked to was Rick Ray. It felt good. I was always up at Mississippi State for camps and he would talk to us as a group afterwards, but it was cool to hear from him one on one.
Q: There were rumors that you were going to reclassify to 2014 last November. Were any of those true and if so, are you glad you didn’t?
A: It was never my plan to reclassify. It was always a big misunderstanding. I had tweeted ‘Pony Up’ at my friend Emmanuel Mudiay (McDonald’s All-American and 2014 SMU commit) and people assumed that I was going there to reclassify so I could go there with him this year. That’s when all of the talk about me reclassifying got started.
Q: How often do you talk to college coaches that are recruiting you about others they may be after in 2015?
A: It’s not my biggest priority now but it will be soon because I need to know if they’re recruiting another player that plays my position or if they’re recruiting a point guard since then I’d have to play shooting guard if I go there. It will be a big priority.
Q: Have you imagined what it’ll be like for you to potentially be drafted?
It’s a long journey. I always think about it and hopefully it’ll be me as the No. 1 pick some day. But for right now, I’m just thinking about how I’m going to get to college. Once I’m there I’ll think more about how I’m going to make it to the NBA.
Q: Who is your natural NBA comparison?
A: I like the comparison between me and Monta Ellis because the way he scores is similar to the way I do.
Q: Have you ever been received an offer to play professionally overseas?
A: Not that I know of.
Q: It’s no secret that you’re a big fan of SpongeBob SquarePants. Why do you like him so much?
A: He’s just so funny to me. I think I really want one of his Krabby Pattys.