When combo guard Malik Newman helped his high school team at Jackson (Miss.) Callaway win a state championship last year as a freshman, he made a goal to win four state titles.
Malik Newman: No. 1 nationally for 2015
Well, Newman – rated by 247Sports.com as the nation’s top player in the 2015 class – is halfway to his goal.
The 6-4, 200-pound Newman had 18 points and seven rebounds in an MVP performance as Callaway turned back Provine 69-65 in Saturday’s Class 5A title game. The Chargers, who finished 27-7, won their second straight title and their fourth in five seasons.
“It (repeating) was very tough,” Newman told reporters after that win.
Newman’s high school coach, Wayne Brent, said a story about Newman from this past Friday – as his team prepped for the state title game -- typifies what makes him a special athlete and person.
“We practiced at 5 o’clock in the morning on Friday,” Brent said. “It’s the last day before spring break. Ten of them had (approved) dismissals or didn’t go to school. But Malik was the guy who went to school. He is a totally different kid. He’s a great kid in the classroom and a special talent.
“As good a basketball player as he is, Malik is even a better person off the floor.”
It’s that kind of work ethic that has helped vault Newman to the top of the Class of 2015.
“Malik comes to practice,” Brent said. “He’ll be early. Then when he leaves, he’s going to go to another gym and play five on five or he’ll work on his jump shot. A lot of times, we tell them we’ve got a big game tomorrow. Go home and get some rest. But he goes to the gym anyway.
“He just loves the game and he loves to work out. When you get a kid who wants to work out, that’s what makes him special because that’s the hard part.”
Newman averaged 23 points a game last year as a freshman.
“He was the MVP of the championship game,” Brent said. “He was all-state last year. Heck, he was the best player in the state last year.”
That did not change as Newman moved into his sophomore season. He averaged 25 points, six rebounds and two steals this season.
“He has a high IQ level and his work ethic is off the charts,” said Newman’s father Horatio Webster, who played at Mississippi State from 1996-98. “Ever since he was 13, he’s been getting up and going to the gym and works out at 6 a.m. before he goes to school. He has worked and pushed like he isn’t even on the radar. I think that’s the approach he takes every time he plays.
“You could tell him he’s ranked No. 1, but he would be like, ‘OK, at the end of the day, you still have to go perform.’ He knows he has to keep working hard.”
Sure enough, Newman had a simple response when told he was ranked No. 1 nationally in his class by 247Sports.com: “It’s a great honor. It just says that all of the hard work has paid off. I think coaches like my scoring ability and my offensive game.”
Newman was joined on the Callaway state championship team by 6-7 senior power forward TreShawn Bolden, who has various SEC offers. The team bonded, Newman said, when it went to Florida over the holidays to play in the City of Palms tournament.
“The guys worked hard,” Newman said. “We wanted to get back to the championship game. We played hard each and every night. We went down and played against some good competition down in Florida. That let us know where we stood. That was a good experience for us.”
The title game on Saturday was marred by fouls as Callaway and Provine combined to shoot 92 foul shots. Newman was fouled hard on a drive, prompting an on-court fracas. Four players were ejected and Webster, who came on to the floor to protect his son from harm, was escorted from the building.
“It was disappointing not to be able to see the end,” Webster told the Clarion Ledger newspaper. “I just went out there and stood beside my son. But it was a hard-fought game between two really good teams.”
The incident is just an example of how close father and son truly are. Webster is dealing with college coaches on behalf of his son. Schools across the country have taken notice of Newman. He made unofficial visits to Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the fall.
“I’ve heard from the likes of Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, Georgetown, LSU, Louisville – almost everybody in the country,” Webster said.
“Almost all of the SEC schools have offered. Arizona and Memphis have offered him. They can’t talk to him yet because he’s not old enough. If they want to get in touch with him, they call his high school coach or his AAU coach and they call me.”
Newman said he is keeping an open mind in terms of recruiting.
“I haven’t thought about a particular conference or a particular school,” he said. “I know I will be looking for a school that is a good situation for me.”
This spring and summer will be a critical time for Newman in terms of development and exposure. Webster said his son will likely play “up” on the Jackson Tigers’ 17-and-under AAU team.
“He’s been playing 17U since he was 13,” Webster said.
Newman said he is used to going up against older competition.
“It’s been good,” Newman said. “I’ve always been the youngest guy on the court. I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder. That means I have to play strong and be strong with the ball. I have to use my basketball IQ to beat the other guy.”
Newman will have plenty of chances to back up his lofty ranking with AAU events, national camps and the USA Basketball 16-and-under national team trials. That team will be selected in early June and will play in the FIBA Americas Championships in Uruguay later in that month.
“I want to get out there and play well and hopefully get the chance to represent my country,” Newman said. “When the AAU season starts, it will be time to go to work again.”
When asked who Newman would compare to as a player, Webster said, “I would compare him to Jamal Crawford or Dwyane Wade. He can score from all over the court. He can shoot the three. He can drive. He can shoot the midrange. There is not a shot he can’t make on the court.”
Brent, who played college basketball at Northeast Louisiana, also discussed shared thoughts on where Newman’s career is headed.
“It just depends how tall he will be, whether it’s 6-4, 6-5 or 6-6,” Brent said. “He’s big enough and his body is developed enough that he can take the bump and score. He can also make baskets with a hand in his face. He would do fine at college. He can go and get a basket in a tough situation.
“He can get to the rim, he’s got a midrange game and the best part of his game is he can shoot the three as well.”
Jerry Meyer, the national basketball recruiting analyst for 247Sports.com, is also intrigued by Newman’s upside.
“Newman is a prototypical high level scoring guard,” Meyer said. “He has size, athleticism, a knack for creating space and a will to put the ball in the basket. When his team needs a bucket, Newman can always create a shot and he has a penchant for making the tough shot.
“Outside of scoring, the rest of his game is developing and rounding out. As talented as Newman is, one of his biggest challenges is keeping the game simple.”
The Best Of Mississippi
Below is a look at some of the top prospects to come out of Mississippi in recent years (hometowns in parentheses):
1984 PF Derrick McKey (Meridian, Miss.), played at Alabama, spent 15 years in the NBA
1988 SF Clarence Weatherspoon (Crawford, Miss.), played at Southern Miss, played 13 years in NBA
1992 PF Othella Harrington (Jackson, Miss.), played at Georgetown, spent 12 seasons in the NBA
1993 C Erick Dampier (Monticello, Miss.), played at Mississippi State (was member of 1996 Final Four team), spent 16 seasons in NBA
2003 SF Travis Outlaw (Starkville, Miss.), signed with Mississippi State but went directly to NBA, still playing with Sacramento Kings
2004 PF Al Jefferson (Prentiss, Miss.), signed with Arkansas but went directly to NBA, still playing with Utah Jazz
2005 SG Monta Ellis (Jackson, Miss.), signed with Mississippi State but went directly to NBA, still playing with Golden State Warriors
2011 SF Rodney Hood (Meridian, Miss.), signed with Mississippi State, transferring to Duke
2011 C Johnny O'Bryant (Cleveland, Miss.), playing at LSU
2012 SF Devonta Pollard (DeKalb, Miss.), playing with Alabama