KU freshman Josh Jackson runs through shooting drills
Former top basketball recruit Malik Newman is transferring to Kansas, a decision announced Friday but also partly the result of being impressed by a KU walkthrough earlier in the week.
During a campus visit, Newman and his father, Horatio Webster, couldn’t believe how coach Bill Self and his staff were pushing players during the middle of the summer.
“(Self) said something that stood out. I’m like, ‘Man, your team works so hard.’ He was like, ‘That’s just the way of life up here,’” Webster told The Star.
When Webster mentioned to Self that he believed it was a difficult practice, the coach told him it was the same thing KU did on gamedays.
“I thought it was really tough. He thought it was crappy,” Webster said with a laugh.
Webster believes the no-nonsense setting will be beneficial for his son. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Jackson, Miss., chose KU over Oregon, Western Kentucky and North Carolina State.
Newman, who was ranked as Rivals’ No. 8 player in the class of 2015, spent last season at Mississippi State, where he averaged 11.3 points and made 38 percent of his threes. He originally considered KU before choosing the Bulldogs.
“In our opinion, Malik was a top-five player coming out of high school,” Self said. “He’s a combo guard that has good size, can really shoot the ball and stretch it.”
Newman, who will have to sit out a year because of transfer rules, declared himself eligible for the NBA Draft after the season before withdrawing a few weeks later. There have been some rumors that, after transferring, Newman could declare for the draft again next season, essentially using his transfer school to improve in practice before leaving without playing in a game.
Webster said that scenario wouldn’t happen, saying Newman would only answer questions NBA scouts have about him by playing in college games.
“There will be no sitting out and bolting out of there. We’re not going to use Kansas,” Webster said. “Coach Self made it clear, ‘You will screw up my recruiting class if you did that.’ That got to be understood before we made this deal. (Malik)’s going to get a chance to play in front of 16,300.”
The commitment helps Self protect against a major roster turnover in 2017-18. After this season, Frank Mason and Landen Lucas will graduate, and Josh Jackson, Svi Mykhailiuk, Carlton Bragg and Devonte’ Graham all potentially could leave early to go pro.
Webster says at one point during the visit, Self told his son that the staff wasn’t going to kiss his tail.
“(Self)’s going to go in there, and he’s going to coach the (crap) out of Malik — excuse my language — and that’s what he needs,” Webster said. “You’re going to play hard or you’re not going to play.”
Newman, who was working on booking his flight Friday, expects to be in Lawrence next week for the beginning of the summer school session.
Webster said his son was “ecstatic” about joining KU’s program.
“Somebody came over to the house, and they were like, ‘I haven’t seen Malik this happy in a year,’” Webster said. “He’s happy. He’s happy about it.”