The idea of practicing every day but not being able to play in games for a full season does not depress Kansas transfer Malik Newman.
“I think it’ll be great. I think it’ll be some high-level, competitive practices. I think it’ll get me better and I can help those guys get better each and every day,” said Newman, a 6-foot-3 sophomore combo guard who after last season decided to leave Mississippi State for KU.
“I think all of us will benefit. I think I will benefit the most. I get a full year to learn the system and learn how he (coach Bill Self) likes things done and what he expects,” added Newman, who also gets to work on adding muscle to his 190-pound frame.
He’ll be a frequent visitor to the weight room.
“It (lifting) is important because playing at Kansas, any time you come on the court you get everyone’s A-game,” said Newman. He averaged 11.3 points a game off 39.1 percent shooting in his one season at Mississippi State after leading Callaway High in Jackson, Miss., to an unprecedented four straight state titles.
“There will be some games where I get beat up. I know I need to work on my body. That’s always something I preach, how big and strong I am, how fast. Those things are important that I work on them.”
Newman, who chose KU as his transfer destination over Oregon, North Carolina State, Western Kentucky and Miami (Fla.), says he’s thankful KU recruited him for a second time.
In April 2015, as Rivals.com’s No. 8-rated player, Newman chose Mississippi State over KU and Kentucky.
“I feel like a lot of the arrows were pointing toward KU the first time. I kind of took a different path. The second time around it was pointed right back at those guys. I don’t see why it’d be a wrong move,” said Newman, who was chosen MVP of both the FIBA Under 16 and Under 17 championships in high school.
“Coach Howard (Jerrance, lead recruiter in Newman recruitment) is more than a coach. He’s like family to me. Coach Self is a very cool dude. I mean much cooler than I expected him to be. As everyone knows he is a great coach. I’m definitely excited to work with him. Coach Howard did a great job the first time of pulling me in. I’m just thankful for the opportunity, that those guys still wanted me the second time around. I’m just excited to work hard with those guys.”
Newman and his dad, Horatio Webster, are convinced Malik will thrive.
“Their strength and conditioning program is second to none,” Webster said. “I look forward to how she (Andrea Hudy, assistant athletic director/sports performance) will transform his body. I’ve seen what she’s done with other players. I told Malik, when I see him next I don’t want to recognize him,” Webster, who played basketball at Mississippi State and overseas, added with a laugh.
“Coach Self is a zero-tolerance guy, work hard or you are not going to play,” Webster noted. “That is what Malik needs. I saw a (KU) workout. I’ve played ball overseas and at the highest level, everywhere but the NBA. I was like, ‘Man those guys put on their hard hat.’ (If) Malik can get that, along with the skills he has, we might have a ballplayer,” Webster added, laughing.
Newman said he loves the people in Lawrence as well as the facilities.
“Outstanding. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said of McCarthy Hall, the players’ dorm.
KU obviously is thrilled to land Newman, even though he can’t play in games until 2017-18.
“Malik is probably the best scorer I’d seen in 11 years of coaching, definitely the best scorer of any recruit. He has a natural niche,” Howard said. “What we liked is he’s a winner. He’s been winning since sixth grade.”
Noted Self: “In our opinion, Malik was a top-five player coming out of high school. He’s a combo guard that has good size, can really shoot the ball and stretch it. There are things he needs to get better at, but the year off will allow him to address things that the NBA people wanted to see more of out of him.”