UK Recruiting

Kentucky recruit Malik Newman puts on a show at Hoop Fest

Malik Newman
Malik Newman AP

BENTON — His extraordinary effort might have cost Malik Newman a shot at the Marshall County Hoop Fest scoring record over the weekend.

Newman — a priority University of Kentucky basketball recruit — turned in two of the top offensive performances in the history of the western Kentucky event.

On Friday, he scored 35 points in a variety of ways, but his Callaway (Miss.) squad fell 76-65 to nationally ranked Archbishop Carroll (Pa.).

On Saturday — with Kansas Coach Bill Self and UK assistant Kenny Payne in the stands — he poured in 42 points and had his team tied with Canadian powerhouse Orangeville Prep with more than two minutes still left to play.

Orangeville's coach called a timeout, and Newman went to the bench exhausted. He was treated for cramps and returned to the floor, but he didn't look quite the same the rest of the way. After putting up 77 points in a 24-hour period, Newman was spent.

The five-star prospect didn't score again and Callaway ended up on the losing end. He finished four points shy of NBA guard Monta Ellis' 10-year-old Hoop Fest record of 46.

Newman's outing still ranked as the second-highest scoring game ever at the Hoop Fest, which has hosted such players as Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Jennings, Derrick Rose, Andrew Wiggins, Tyler Hansbrough and a slew of former and current Kentucky Wildcats.

"You could make a case for him as the best scorer in the country," said director of recruiting Evan Daniels. "At 6-3, he does a great job of really being effective with his dribble and creating space on his shot opportunities. He's as good as it gets in high school basketball as far as creating space and being able to pull up and hit a long-distance jump shot."

Newman's true gift comes before he even puts up a shot.

His quickness and natural instincts make him nearly impossible to defend on the perimeter. He sizes up an opponent, finds a weakness and strikes immediately.

"He's got a lot of moves," said Callaway Coach David Sanders. "You can really throw anything at him and he'll figure out a way to get past it. And the best part of his game is he doesn't really know what he's going to do. He's just reacting to the defense.

"He's one of those rare kids that can make any shot. And that's hard to game plan for."

On one play Friday, he faked a spin move in tight quarters, stepped back, and nailed a three-pointer from the corner over a baffled defender.

"I don't think I've ever seen a guy who can do that," said Sanders, who played college basketball at Ole Miss.

His offensive prowess has made him one of the most coveted recruits in the class of 2015, and Kentucky was one of the first schools to get involved.

Newman doesn't like to talk about his recruitment. "I choose not to speak on it," he said Friday. And those closest to him say he never discusses it privately and doesn't even seem to be seriously considering his college decision at a stage in his high school career when many of his peers have already signed with their schools.

Horatio Webster, Newman's father, said his wife asked him last week where he thought Newman would end up.

"I don't have any idea," he told her. "We're not even talking about it."

Newman hasn't cut his list of schools, and a trip to UK for Big Blue Madness in October has really been his only serious recruiting visit thus far.

Webster said the head coaches from UK, Kansas, UConn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Texas A&M all had in-home visits with the family in recent months, and those are the schools most often linked to his recruitment.

Newman claims he would still listen to any school that wants to get involved.

"It's open to everybody right now," he said.

Playing in Kentucky for the first time meant several UK-related questions over the weekend.

Newman acknowledged that it was "a great feeling" performing in front of the Kentucky fans and noted the "crazy" environment during his trip to Big Blue Madness a couple of months ago.

His father — a former standout at Mississippi State — said he talks to Payne almost every day and called Madness weekend an "unbelievable" experience.

"What can you not like about Kentucky?" Webster said. "Kentucky and that program speaks for itself. Coach Cal does a great job. Kentucky is Kentucky. You see what they're doing now. You gotta really love everything about Kentucky."

Webster says his son might take some more visits during the upcoming Christmas break, but none have been planned.

Daniels says Newman's college destination is among the most difficult to predict in the senior class.

And Sanders says it's "a waste of time" to even talk about Newman's recruitment at this point.

The only thing that's known is that Newman's college choice will remain an unknown ... at least for the next few months.

"He says he's signing late," his father said. "That's all he's told me."