Next Cats: Calipari visits 2015's top prospect Newman

broberts@herald-leader.comNovember 6, 2013 

Class 5A Boys Championship Basketball

Guard Malik Newman (14), one of the top scorers at the high school level, is UK Coach John Calipari's No. 1 recruiting target.

CHARLES SMITH — AP

There aren't many waking moments when Malik Newman isn't putting up shots in a gym somewhere.

The highly touted basketball recruit made an exception Tuesday night.

That's because UK Coach John Calipari and assistant Kenny Payne made a trip to Jackson, Miss., to meet with Newman, who is widely considered the No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2015.

The 6-foot-3 guard was practicing with his team before the meeting. After they were finished talking, he probably went right back to the court.

"He's up before the sun is up and he doesn't quit until after 9 or 10 o'clock at night," said Callaway High School Coach David Sanders. "I have to get on him about getting rest — me and his dad both. Because he'll sneak out of the house and go work out. Most kids sneak out of the house to go to a party. He'll sneak out and go to the gym.

"That kid is literally in the gym all day long. That's not an understatement. He doesn't do anything else."

Music to a college coach's ears. And just one of the reasons that Newman is possibly the most pursued player in the country.

Many recruiting observers consider him the best offensive player in high school basketball, regardless of class. He's a high-volume scorer with an exceptional outside shot and a quick first step that gets him past defenders.

In a summer game at the Peach Jam this year, Newman scored 40 points with Calipari, Roy Williams, Larry Brown and several other top coaches in attendance.

The reputation for scoring has also led to a misconception about Newman's game, according to his high school coach.

"People get confused and think he's a selfish kid. He's not a selfish kid," Sanders said. "It's just, in the past couple of years, he's had so much pressure on him as far as scoring and carrying the load because his team wasn't as good around him."

Sanders contends that Newman — considered a combo guard — is actually more effective when playing the point, assuming he has the proper talent around him.

All of that came together for the first time over the summer when Newman traveled to Uruguay as a member of Team USA's under-16 squad.

He was surrounded by some of the best juniors and sophomores in the country, and he was named the tournament's MVP after leading the Americans to a gold medal as the starting point guard.

His experience with the U.S. team only solidified his wish of playing alongside the very best players in college.

"That's always been his goal — to play with a group of guys that would push him every day in practice," Sanders said. "That's his main thing. He loves the competition. ... He wants to be challenged every day."

Newman — the son of former Mississippi State star Horatio Webster — didn't have much to say about his recruitment until recently, and he still hasn't taken or planned any formal visits.

Nevertheless, there have been message board rumblings and Twitter speculation that he might reclassify to 2014 and attend college next season.

"I don't really see it happening," Sanders said, "but I definitely wouldn't rule it out. I know he can play on that level right now."

Most of the major programs in the country have already offered, and college coaches are a common sight in his high school gym.

But, for now, all Newman thinks about is getting better.

"He's one of those kids you don't have to worry about," Sanders said. "As long as he's got access to a gym and access to some food, you don't have to worry about him. He's in heaven."

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.

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