Introducing Malik Newman
Mississippi state champion, First-Team All-State, and he’s just getting started.
by Brendan Bowers / @StepienRules
Horatio Webster doesn’t need to wake Malik Newman for school in the morning, because he knows his son is already there. While kids his age all over the country cling desperately to those final hours of sleep, in fearful anticipation of that wretched shriek from their alarm clocks, Malik Newman has long since left his house. Before school starts each day, he’s in the Callaway High School gym in Jackson, MS, putting up shot, after shot, after shot.
He’d be alone there too, if not for a ball, a hoop, a dream and overwhelming work ethic specifically uncommon among his peers.
In Malik Newman’s first ever high school game this season, he went 10-19 from the floor, hitting 5 three-pointers, and finishing with 28 points and 10 rebounds in a 3-point win over Marshall High School from Lexington, MS. He’d finish the season averaging 23 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.5 steals per game for his Callaway High Chargers too, and they’d go 24-6 in the process. Newman’s squad won the Mississippi 5A State Championship as well earlier this month, and last week he was the first ever freshman in Mississippi state history to be named First-Team All-State.
According to Callaway High School’s head coach Wayne Brent, all that success started for Malik with his approach those Mississippi mornings.
“The thing that grabbed the attention of our kids when Malik arrived at Callaway was his workout pattern,” Coach Brent said. “He gets up at 5 o’clock in the morning, gets into the gym before school, gets his shots up, and from day one he was a harder worker than the kids we already had in the program.
The older guys took to him because they knew, here’s a guy who gets up at 5 a.m. in the morning, and is ready to work. They all really took a liking too him right away, and had a real respect for what he was doing. Not only was Malik Newman our best player this season, but he was also our hardest worker.”
Don’t think the now 15-year-old Newman was trying to impress by beating everybody to school in the morning, either. According to Malik, he just happened to have that time slot available, and it just fit well with his schedule.
“The reason for me working out before school was because I figured that I had weights, and practice after school, then my homework after that,” Malik said. “So I just thought that working out in the morning would be much easier.”
This is the approach of a kid widely regarded as the best incoming ninth grader in the country last season before he ever played a high school game.
Malik Newman’s Jumpshot Is A Family Tradition
Malik Newman turned 15 years old just prior to Callaway’s 55-44 win over Wayne County in the Mississippi State Championship Game on March 3. At 6-3 already, he’s undeniably as athletic as any high school basketball player in the country.
If he wanted to simply out-athlete kids his own age, looping together a highlight reel of explosive dunks, blocks, ball-handling displays and reverse lay-ups, he could. He’d have still averaged over 20 points per game as a freshman if he did, and in a lot of ways that might’ve even been easier for him. Nobody has to wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to practice dunking.
At a young age, however, Malik continues to be determined to develop as an all-around player. He’s been blessed with the gift to shoot the basketball to be sure, passed down from his All-SEC father from Mississippi State, but it’s a gift he also works on daily to perfect. The result of that work has left Newman pulling up from literally anywhere on the basketball court, and shooting a jumpshot that looks like it’s leaving the hands of young Monta Ellis himself.
“I was a tweener in my playing days,” said Horatio Webster, the former JuCo Player of the Year and an All-SEC forward at Mississippi State University. “My thing was, I wasn’t athletic enough to play the 3, and I wasn’t big enough to play the 4.
“I was 6-7, but I could always shoot the basketball. I could shoot it from three, from anywhere on the court. I think that was the gift that I had that I gave to Malik. I could shoot; I could shoot the blood out the basketball, and still can to this day [laughs].
“I did teach Malik how to shoot when he was younger, but he was the type of kid that I really only had to show something to him one time and then I’d never have to show him again. It was almost like he could just always shoot, because he just got what I was teaching him right away.”
It wasn’t too long after that, either, before the student started beating the teacher at his own game.
“We don’t play one-on-one anymore, he got a little bit too fast for me right now,” Webster said with a laugh. “I can’t move the way I used to, the one-on-one games have stopped. But the shooting games, they’re still very competitive.”
While agreeing it’s been a while since his Dad played him one-on-one, Malik also agreed on the competitiveness of those shooting games they have too.
“He thinks he can shoot better than me, and I think I can shoot better than him, so it’s fun. But in the end he can shoot [laughs], so it is very competitive, and he does win sometimes.”
Coach Wayne Brent, who spent time in the SEC as an assistant coach at Ole Miss prior to taking the Callaway job, uses the words “pure” and “polished” to emphatically describe Malik’s jumpshot and offensive game. Not what it will be one day either, but what it is right now on the varsity level.
“Malik coming in was probably one of the most polished offensive guys that have come into our program. He was a very, very polished offensive talent.
“The thing about Malik, when most kids come into the ninth grade they’re usually a year behind, they’re 15 or sometimes 16. Malik was 14 the whole playoffs until the championship game, and you don’t find many guys who work on their jump shot like he does at his age.
Most guys are trying to dunk, trying to make the spectacular play, but he has a jump shot that’s so pure, and he really works on it. When teams are playing off him, that’s all the space he needs, and he’ll knock it down from anywhere.”
Describing Malik Newman’s Game
Coach Wayne Brent’s first year as head coach at Callaway High was Monta Ellis’ senior season at Lanier High School, also in Jackson, MS, five miles away from Callaway. When asked which NBA players would be a fair comparison to Malik’s game, the first person Coach Brent mentioned was Ellis.
“The guy around here that I would relate Malik’s game is too is Monta Ellis,” Brent said. “Monta is about 6-2 or 6-3, and Malik is about 6-3, so Malik is probably a little bit bigger at this point. But when Monta came in, he scored a lot of points too, and his ninth grade year he averaged around 21. Malik just averaged 23 this season.
“On a scale outside of Mississippi, I worked at the ABCD Camp when the kid OJ Mayo played there, and OJ’s game was very, very similar to Malik’s too. Mayo could score; he wasn’t really a PG, though he could run the point as more of a combo guard. He could really shoot the basketball as well, and handle the basketball too, so I would say OJ Mayo and Monta Ellis are good comparisons.”
How tall the 15-year-old Newman ends up growing remains to be seen, but according to Webster, he expects his son to be about as tall he is.
“The doctors said he’ll get to 6-7 or 6-8, and that his growth plate is currently wide open. Right now, he’s wearing a size 14 shoe, I stopped at a 13, and he’s in a 14 already,” Webster noted. “If he’s 6-7, I think he can play the 1 through 4 in college. He’s posting up right now at 6-3.”