Sidelines with John Clay

Malik Newman is a one-and-done, just not as he planned

Arkansas’ Dusty Hannahs (3) keeps close to Mississippi State’s Malik Newman (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas beat Mississippi State 82-68.
Arkansas’ Dusty Hannahs (3) keeps close to Mississippi State’s Malik Newman (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas beat Mississippi State 82-68. Associated Press

When Malik Newman arrived at Mississippi State to play basketball for Ben Howland, the McDonald’s All-American guard surely believed his would be a one-year stay in Starkville. And he was right. It’s just that the stay didn’t end the way he had envisioned.

Instead of heading to the NBA, Newman is now heading to another as yet unnamed school. After Newman removed his name from the NBA Draft pool last week, Mississippi State confirmed rampant rumors on Monday when it announced that Newman had been granted a release to transfer.

“I appreciate all of Malik’s hard work, and I wish him the very best moving forward,” said Howland in a statement released by the school. “I want nothing but the best for Malik and his family.”

As Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports points out, Newman is just the second Top 10 Rivals prospect in the past decade to transfer from the school he originally signed. Khem Birch, who transfered from Pittsburgh to UNLV, was the first.

Ranked No. 8 by Rivals for the Class of 2015 and hailed as the centerpiece to Howland’s turnaround efforts in the coach’s first year at MSU, Newman struggled through an inconsistent and injury-plagued freshman year. On Jan. 12, in an 80-74 loss to Kentucky at Rupp Arena, Newman scored 14 points in 27 minutes. He took just seven shots, making three.

He ended up averaging 11.3 points in 27.7 minutes per game, but shot just 39.1 percent from the floor and finished with just nine more assists than turnovers. Newman did shoot 37.9 percent from three-point range -- ninth-best in the SEC -- but made just nine of 38 threes over his last 10 games. He scored in double figures just once in the last eight games he played last season. State finished the year just 14-17.

Newman entered his name into the draft, was invited to the combine, but was deemed as a second-round pick, at best, by the scouts. When the Jackson, Miss. native withdrew his name from the draft, Newman’s father, former MSU player Horatio Webster, let be known that Newman was thinking of parting ways with Howland.

After all, Newman never felt comfortable in the former UCLA coach’s system. And Howland has recruited a dynamite freshman class for 2016-17 -- ranked sixth by Rivals behind Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, Michigan State and UCLA. MSU’s class includes guards Tyson Carter (ranked 70th by Rivals), Lamar Peters (81st) and Eli Wright (92nd).

“(Howland) wasn’t the coach for Malik,” Webster told the Clarion-Ledger. “I don’t think Ben trusted Malik so I think the feeling was mutual.”

Webster said Newman may narrow his list of prospective schools in the next week, but will likely take the summer to decide. He originally picked Mississippi State over Kentucky and Kansas. He must sit out next season, but will be eligible for the 2017-18 campaign.

Is Kentucky an option? Who knows. Newman would have to take the chance that incoming freshmen guards De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are both one-and-done players, which would clear more playing time for Newman the next season. But given Newman’s inconsistency last season, it’s hard to judge John Calipari’s interest in the guard. It’s also not know what sort of restrictions Howland put on Newman’s transfer.

Rivals Top 10 for 2015

  • 1. Skal Labissiere, Kentucky
  • 2. Ben Simmons, LSU
  • 3. Jaylen Brown, California
  • 4. Brandon Ingram, Duke
  • 5. Cheick Diallo, Kansas
  • 6. Diamond Stone, Maryland
  • 7. Ivan Rabb, California
  • 8. Malik Newman, Miss State
  • 9. Jamal Murray, Kentucky
  • 10. Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky
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