One of the top prospects in the country will attend a school that has not reached the NCAA tournament this decade and made a coaching change just last month. Five-star shooting guard Malik Newman announced at a private ceremony on Friday that he has committed to Mississippi State. Newman chose the Bulldogs over Kansas, Kentucky and Mississippi.
Newman attends Callaway High School in Jackson, Miss., and his father, Horatio Webster, played for the Bulldogs in the late 1990s. Newman said in March that the appeal of suiting up for the same school as his father had not been a major factor in his decision-making process but added that it would be a “great thing to follow his legacy."
Mississippi State pursued Newman under former coach Rick Ray, but the school fired him in late March and replaced him with former UCLA coach Ben Howland. Webster told The Clarion-Ledger that he considered Howland a “great hire,” and noted Newman’s “good relationship” with new assistant Korey McCray, who recruited Newman while at LSU.
As a senior, Newman averaged 29.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game while earning his second Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year award and leading Callaway to a 31-2 record and a fourth consecutive state championship. He is renowned for his scoring prowess, possessing the ability to beat defenders both off the dribble and with an impressive jump shot.
DraftExpress projects the 6'4", 180-pound shooting guard to be selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft.
[via YouTube user Courtside Films]
Newman will join a Mississippi State team that returns all but one of its starters (senior forward Roquez Johnson) after going 13-19 overall and 6-12 in the SEC this past season. Though the Bulldogs finished 12th in the conference, they doubled their conference win total compared to 2013-14. They also improved by 43 spots in kenpom.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency rankings and five spots on the other side of the ball.
Mississippi State’s 2015 recruiting class also includes three-star power forward Joseph Strugg and three-star shooting guard Quinndary Weatherspoon. The Bulldogs had signed Tookie Brown, but the three-star point guard announced earlier this month that he would reopen his recruitment. Mississippi State had also been pursuing JUCO forward Ray Kasongo.
In any case, Howland has already scored a major recruiting win early in his tenure by securing a commitment from Mississippi State’s top target. Newman may not transform the Bulldogs into an SEC contender, but his addition, in conjunction with the return of several key contributors, should make them more competitive in a conference that, much like last season, projects as “Kentucky and everyone else.”
Speaking of the Wildcats, who had been considered one of the top contenders to land Newman: Even though they missed out one of the best pure scorers in the country, they bring in three top-50 prospects in guards Isaiah Briscoe and Charles Matthews and center Skal Labissiere, the latter of whom is the No. 1 player in the class of 2015, according to rivals.com. Kentucky is also still in the running for two other top-five players, wing Jaylen Brown (No. 3) and forward Cheick Diallo (No. 5), among others.
Of course, John Calipari would have liked to add Newman to his team, which likely will begin the season ranked in the top five anyway. Instead, Newman elected to stay home and try to get Mississippi State back to its first NCAA tournament since 2009.