UK Recruiting

Next Cats notes: Newman not averse to teaming up with Kentucky signee Briscoe

Callaway guard Malik Newman (14) took a pass from forward Deitrich Taylor (32) Mississippi Class 5A championship basketball game in Jackson, Miss., on March 14, 2014.
Callaway guard Malik Newman (14) took a pass from forward Deitrich Taylor (32) Mississippi Class 5A championship basketball game in Jackson, Miss., on March 14, 2014. AP

BENTON — One of the first major basketball recruits in the class of 2015 to pop up on the University of Kentucky's recruiting radar was Malik Newman, and early indications were that Lexington might be his most likely landing spot.

In recent months, UK fans who have followed Newman's recruitment have voiced concerns over two possible conflicts that could send him elsewhere.

First, that his father — former Mississippi State standout Horatio Webster — might try to steer him to his alma mater.

Second, that the commitment of Isaiah Briscoe — a player who shares similar skills with Newman — would mean there's no longer room on the roster.

Webster answered the first question directly over the weekend at the Marshall County Hoop Fest.

"I'm not going to have any influence on him," Newman's father said. "I'm going to let Malik make that decision. So then whatever happens with his career, he's responsible for it, not me. I'm going to stay out of that."

Newman, who visited UK for Big Blue Madness in October, said he would be fine playing alongside fellow combo guard Briscoe.

"I like Briscoe," he said. "I think we could be a good backcourt together, if that was the school I was to choose.

"I think my game complements him, and I think his game complements mine. You really can't double us, and that kind of opens up the floor for both of us."

Webster was blunt when asked if a backcourt that will already probably include Briscoe, Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker and Dominique Hawkins is too loaded for Newman to join.

"At the end of the day, wherever he goes, he's going to have to play," he said. director of recruiting Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader that he would consider Newman's "top tier" of schools to be UK, Kansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Daniels offered a more measured response to the question of whether Newman and Briscoe could co-exist.

"I think it would be tough for Kentucky to reel in him to go with the guys they already have," he said. "I think him and Isaiah Briscoe — while they're different players — they have some similar attributes that could make it tough. I think they're both guys that would like to play with the ball in their hands, but they're both best at naturally scoring the ball.

"With that said, Calipari has proven in the past that he can take guys who play the same position — like John Wall and Eric Bledsoe — and mold them and get them to play really well together."

Bragg approves

John Calipari's "platoon" system has garnered a mixed response from recruits and their parents and coaches this season.

Count five-star forward Carlton Bragg among those in favor of it.

"That platoon system — oh, I love it," he told the Herald-Leader. "It gives everyone a chance to show what they have. They play hard."

Bragg has narrowed his choices to UK, Kansas, Illinois and UCLA. He said if he picks Kentucky and Calipari wants to keep "platooning," he'd be all in.

"Oh, for sure," he said. "I'd definitely like that."

Skal's Saturday

UK signee Skal Labissiere had one of the best performances at the Hoop Fest with his 33-point game Friday night against Oak Hill Academy.

Labissiere moved on to the Legacy Nissan Classic at North Laurel High School on Saturday night for another game in front of Kentucky fans (and UK assistant coach Barry "Slice" Rohrssen).

The 6-foot-11 senior had 15 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in Reach Your Dream Prep's 76-60 loss to Wesleyan Christian.

Diallo in Kentucky

UK recruit Cheick Diallo had 15 points and 12 rebounds late Saturday night at the Hoop Fest, but his Our Savior (N.Y.) team lost 68-66 in a physical game with Oak Hill Academy.

Diallo — a 6-9 forward — and his coaches are not discussing his recruitment during the high school season, and he is still considering UK along with Kansas, Iowa State, St. John's and Pittsburgh. He took his first official visit to Lexington in June.

UK assistant coach Kenny Payne watched him Saturday night.