Newman: The word 'struggle' is not in my vocabulary
Malik Newman didn't make the statement he had hoped to during his first game back on the EYBL Circuit last Saturday.
The nation's top-ranked guard was 2-for-12 from the floor, 0-for-3 from three, recording 10 points in 29 minutes of play.
The Jackson Tigers, Newman's AAU team, went on to win their first game of Nike tournament in Dallas 59-36, but if you took to Twitter afterwards, chances are you saw Tweets critiquing Newman's game with a repeated word articulating how he played.
During the Callaway Chargers 2013-14 season, Newman averaged 29.2 points per game. So the way he started back on the Circuit wasn't what he was expecting either.
"I wouldn't say it was a struggle," Newman said. "It just wasn't my day for scoring so I tried to contribute other ways.
"As far as the 'struggling' part? I don't really pay attention to that," he said. "I keep that word out of my vocabulary."
By the end of the weekend, Newman turned things around substantially, walking away averaging 19.8 points in the four games the Tigers played last Saturday and Sunday. But last weekend drew questions from several scouts who have seen him play for years – the same people that deemed him the consensus No. 1 player in the country last summer.
"I think at times he tries to settle for the contested three-pointer," said Jerry Meyer, the director of basketball scouting for 247Sports. "I'd like to see him attack a little more off the dribble, which he's capable of and has done a good bit. I'd also like to see him put the ball on the floor to the basket with the idea of creating for his teammates, not just getting his own shot."
Earlier in the week, I broke down several of the top headlines for Mississippi-based prospects coming out of the early AAU season. A big question right now is who will be the consensus No. 1 player in the Class of 2015 when the new rankings come out.
"If I were to completely reshuffle the rankings today," Meyer said, "It'd be difficult to not put Ben Simmons No. 1."
Simmons, a 6-foot-9 LSU commit, came away from Dallas with the most highly regarded performance of the weekend. Though Newman lost the consensus No. 1 ranking in February to Bishop-O'Dowd's (Calif.) Ivan Rabb, he is still regarded as the top player in the country by 247Sports and Rivals.com.
"I think the big question with Malik is whether his game is still progressing, or is what we have seen what we're going to see," Meyer said.
Newman, too, knows that he faces a lot of competition this summer and can't become complacent and allow his game to stagnate.
"I know for a fact that I still have a lot to prove," Newman said. "A statement like (Meyer's) – I can't really get upset about it because last weekend I didn't really do anything. But at the same time, I think as the summer progresses and high school gets close, his opinion will change."
At the end of his junior season, Newman and his father Horatio Webster agreed that 6-foot-3 guard would have a quieter summer and wouldn't compete in as many camps and tournaments as he did in previous years.
For the month of April, Newman competed with Mo Williams Elite AAU program on the Under Armor Association circuit but made the decision last week to finish out his summer in the Nike EYBL.
"I just think the competition (on the Under Armor circuit) wasn't the same as it is with Nike," he said. "I figured that if I was going to play I might as well do it against the best of the best like it is with Nike."
Newman boasts offers from the top college basketball programs in the country, including Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, UConn, among others.
Chances are he doesn't really need the added exposure that comes with playing on the Nike circuit, but there's no denying it will play in his favor to participate in these tournaments that scouts are watching meticulously all summer.
"You know, the ranking doesn't really mean a lot," Newman has said about the consensus No. 1 spot. "Out of all of these players in the nation, someone thinks I'm the best and someone else thinks I'm not. It's just a number beside your name, so you have to look at it like that and just go out and play."
As the month of June approaches, Newman said he will continue the process of narrowing down the list of schools he will consider attending. While he's not releasing a list now, his goal to play with Dominican (Wis.) big man Diamond Stone is still going strong.
"Our relationship is great," he said. "He has his list and I'm working on mine. There's like four or five teams that are right there on both of our lists, so that's a good thing."
Newman will travel to Hampton, Va. this weekend to compete in the third session on the EYBL Circuit. The Jackson Tigers are four wins away from qualifying for July's Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C.