At first glance, Malik Newman looks unassuming enough as a basketball prospect. At 6'3 with a lean body and a wingspan that is proportional to his height, Newman doesn't come off as a transcendent talent from the moment he walks into the gym the way some of his peers at the top of Class of 2015 recruiting rankings do. This year's group of incoming high school seniors are again defined by their size, with eight of the top 11 prospects according to ESPN measuring 6'9 or taller. That's just fine for Newman, though, who is the epitome of a player who prefers to let his game do the talking.
The first thing you'll notice about Newman is his incredible range. He'll pull up from anywhere on the court with the type of confidence reminiscent of Damian Lillard or Steph Curry. AAU basketball often lacks the structure for offensive sets, but it isn't difficult to envision the type of damage Newman will be able to do coming off a high screen and stepping into a three. The Jackson, Miss. native is the textbook definition of a scoring combo guard. Look no further than national champion UConn for evidence of how effective those types of players can be in college.
Newman said he doesn't want to be pigeonholed strictly as a shooting guard or point guard in a conversation with SB Nation on Thursday.
"Really, I'm both," Newman said. "I just want to find an opportunity to try to get something easy," Newman said of his offensive approach when he gets the ball. "Whether it's for me for my teammates, just try to get something easy."
"(Height) is a not a major thing to me. If you look at Allen Iverson when he was in the league, he was undersized and still put in work."
The summer AAU circuit is where Newman has made his name for scouts and college coaches. He's unanimously considered the best guard in the Class of 2015. Rivals has Newman as the No. 1 player in the class. He's No. 2 according to ESPN behind 6'9 forward Ivan Raab. But all of the coverage around rankings and Newman's still wide open college recruitment belies something more important: he's one of the biggest winners you'll ever see.
Newman scored 25 points to help Callaway win the Mississippi Class 5A state title to end his junior year. That's nothing new for Newman: he's won the state title all three years of his high school career. As a junior, he averaged 29.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, according to MaxPreps.
Recruiting analyst Scott Phillips believes Newman is a tremendous college prospect worthy of all the attention he's getting from the NCAA's bluebloods right now.
"Malik Newman is about as well rounded a scoring guard as I've seen the last five years," Phillips told SB Nation on Friday. "What's great is he can score from all three levels. He has an advanced pull-up game, he can score off the dribble, and he's really an underrated passer. If he continues to improve his handle and passing, he'll shine more in the eyes of NBA scouts. But for college, he's as good as it gets in terms of a guard who can score and distribute."
As for his college recruitment, Newman said there are no frontrunners at the moment. He's enjoying the process and is taking it slowly. Kansas has already had an in-home visit, and the Jayhawks have plenty of competition. Newman may not make a decision until April of 2015. Right now, he said he just wants to continue training and keep his options open.
Newman said he's been working with VertiMax in the offseason to improve his explosiveness and conditioning. While no basketball player wants to compare themselves directly to one guy, Newman says there is a popular comparison between himself and another Mississippi native he doesn't mind hearing.
"I do kinda like the comp between me and Monta (Ellis), because he was a great player," Newman said. "He's still playing great for Dallas."
Ellis once scored 72 points in a high school game before making the prep-to-pros jump in 2005. Newman won't be allowed to join the NBA until at least 2016, if he's so fortunate, but he'll make some college program very happy a year from now.