Mississippi native Malik Newman, who has yet to actually play in a Kansas-Kansas State basketball game, certainly has heard a lot about the rivalry.
“I just know how Devonté takes it and Svi,” Newman, KU’s sophomore transfer from Mississippi State said of KU senior guards Devonté Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk. They are 6-1 all-time against K-State heading into Saturday’s 11 a.m. resumption of the Sunflower Showdown at Allen Fieldhouse.
“I mean those guys take it as (if) it was the Missouri game. That’s what Devonté compared it to yesterday, the Missouri game times 10,” Newman added.
KU tripped the rival Tigers, 93-87, in an exhibition contest that was competitive, but didn’t count in the record books, on Oct. 22 at the Sprint Center.
“The meaning is through the roof for the game,” Newman said of Saturday’s contest between the No. 12-ranked Jayhawks (13-3, 3-1) and unranked Wildcats (12-4, 2-2), which will be shown live on ESPN.
“I’m just going to go out there and look at it as another game, (but) whenever you can play a rivalry, especially in-state rivalry, the game is always fun,” Newman added.
He has seen two Kansas-Kansas State contests with his own eyes.
Last season as a redshirt, he watched the Jayhawks win 90-88 in Lawrence and 74-71 in Manhattan.
“It’d definitely be (Missouri) times 10 from an exhibition game,” KU coach Bill Self said when told about Graham’s statement to Newman. “If you go back in time, I think those were two pretty good, heated rivalries that were pretty similar. They (K-State) would be considered without hesitation our biggest rival and certainly I’m sure they look at us the same way. It’ll be intense.”
Self said he’s considering a return to the starting lineup for Newman in the wake of his big game Tuesday against Iowa State. Newman, who averages 10.9 points and 4.6 boards a game, exploded for 27 points and eight boards in an 83-78 home win.
Newman came off the bench in KU’s season opener, started the next 11 games, then has returned to a reserve role since the start of Big 12 play. Newman did start the second half of Tuesday’s game in place of Marcus Garrett, who has started five of 16 games.
“I think his attitude has been real good. Now would I say a week ago he was happy about that? The answer would obviously be no,” Self said of Newman and his reserve role. “Malik is a pretty realistic guy. He knows and I told the team, ‘When Malik plays well he starts.’ There’s no other way to look at that. He’s a guy that can get us 14, 15 (points) a game. The biggest thing for him to play well is a confidence standpoint. Hopefully the Iowa State game will trigger some of that.”
Self said he does like having some offensive punch off the bench, thus is “not sure what the perfect formula is” regarding Garrett versus Newman in the starting lineup.
“Of course it’s coachspeak (but) it’s not who starts it’s who finishes,” Self said.
Newman said either way is fine with him.
“If I start I start. If I don’t I don’t. You play the same game,” Newman said.
Newman did concede he can’t remember the last time he’s come off the bench for a team.
“It actually has (been a while),” he said. “I mean it’s life. It’s basketball. It’s something you can’t frown about. I think I did a great job of handling it. I just want to be out there with the team.”
Of not starting the last four games, Newman noted: “I mean it opened up my eyes, let me know there were some things I wasn’t doing that I should be doing. I think it was a good move.”
Newman may draw the defensive assignment on K-State junior guard Barry Brown, who exploded for 38 points in Wednesday’s 86-82 victory over Oklahoma State at Bramlage Coliseum.
“I actually didn’t watch it. Coach did mention he had 38. Barry is a good player,” Newman said. “I was with him some this summer working camps. I think he’s a good person, good player. I’m excited.”
Brown is K-State’s leading scorer at 16.9 points a game. He has 44 assists to 38 turnovers with 34 steals.
“With Stokes (Kamau, injured point guard) being out against Oklahoma State, it was obvious that Barry took it on himself to say, ‘Hey I’m going to go win this game or do everything I can to help us win this game,’” Self said. “What did he have, 38 on 17 shots (12 of 17 shooting, 3 of 4 threes, 11 of 16 free throws)? That’s pretty impressive for any guard.”
Brown, by the way, returned the compliment to Jayhawks players in speaking with The Star at Big 12 media day.
“It’s not really hate, man. We know it’s all basketball. We’re just all competitors. It’s really all love. Being around those guys at (summer) camp, you know we’ll talk a little smack, talk a little trash about last year and what we’re going to do this year and vice versa. It’s never hate.”