Those around Malik Newman want the basketball world to know that he’s not just a gunner.
Newman — a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Jackson, Miss. — is regarded as the best backcourt player in high school basketball and is known primarily for his scoring ability.
But that’s not all he can do.
Callaway High Coach David Sanders pointed to the FIBA world championships earlier this month, when Newman captained the Team USA under-17 squad to a gold medal in Dubai. Newman averaged a team-high 14.9 points per game during the tournament. He also led star-studded Team USA in assists.
“He did a good job moving the ball,” Sanders told the Herald-Leader. “People say that he can’t really run the point, but I think he showed that he could.
“He can definitely pass the basketball. He’s going to find the open man.”
That was tough to do early in his high school career, but Sanders said it wasn’t entirely Newman’s fault. He took over as Callaway’s coach following Newman’s sophomore season, when the five-star recruit averaged 0.9 assists per game.
“I think part of that was the guys around him weren’t really ready to score when he passed the ball,” Sanders said. “I noticed it when I got here last year. I was like, ‘Look, when the ball comes out of Malik’s hands, you’ve got to make them pay for doubling him.’ And once these guys got comfortable and figured that out, his numbers went up.”
Newman averaged 3.3 assists per game as a junior — to go along with 29.2 points.
Sanders says the college coaches who are recruiting Newman are not concerned “at all” with his ability to pass the ball or play point guard at the next level. They’re more focused on his overall skill set, and there’s a lot to like there.
“He rebounds like an animal,” Sanders said. “He can block shots. He runs the floor and can finish.
“I think the main thing with Malik is that he wants to win. And if he has to play point guard to win, he’ll do it. If he has to play the 2, 3, even the 4, he’ll do that. Whatever he has to do to go out there and give his team a chance to win, he’ll do it.”