Malik Newman has been busy. Since competing in the McDonald's All-American Game in Chicago and the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, the dynamic scorer will complete his prep career this Friday at the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn. On top of that, he's also been busy deciding on where he will play next season.
With the signing period for college hoops having officially begun on Wednesday, that decision is somewhere on the horizon.
The 6'3, five-star combo guard from Jackson, Miss. has never once released a top 10 or five or three, but the race is unofficially between Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. But, unlike most recruits, Newman will NOT be touring any of those college campuses on official visits before making his decision (though he has taken unofficial visits to Baton Rouge, Starkville and twice to Oxford).
Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger reports that Newman's father, Horatio Webster, explained that his son simply does not have the time to take any officials. And just when you thought Newman's recruitment wasn't crazy enough, there's buzz that he might consider playing overseas.
So where is Newman most likely to end up?
The heavy favorite for Newman's signature, Lexington, Ken. seems like a smart destination as head coach John Calipari has made a living off of one-and-done players. And now that seven of his player's from the 38-1 team have declared early for the NBA Draft, it seems like an easy choice for Newman to head to Bluegrass country for the plethora of playing time that has now opened up.
Playing time was one of the few knocks against the Wildcats' pitch, but as his high school coach, former Ole Miss Rebel David Sanders, pointed out in a recent interview with The Advocate, the departures in Lexington "definitely opens up some spots for him to come in and play major minutes."
Not to mention that Cal has groomed NBA guards such as Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Archie Goodwin and James Young. So, yeah, you could say going to Kentucky could potentially impact Newman's NBA future.
The most intriguing of the finalists, LSU and Johnny Jones offer a unique situation for Mr. Newman if he were to choose to come down to the Bayou for college. LSU already has two McDonald's All-Americans on their way to Baton Rouge in Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney, both of whom are recruiting Newman hard.
"We're still working on him, he already knows what we have to offer, but we'll be working on Malik up there as well," Blakeny told The Advocate.
The opportunity to play with two elite players, make a run for a national title and garner immediate playing time has to be enticing. The ultimate question is does Newman want to have help on the road to the NBA or does he want to pave it on his own?
If Newman were to end up in Lawrence, Kan., he would more than likely be handed the keys to Allen Fieldhouse. We've seen head coach Bill Self have no problem handing over the reigns to freshman one-and-done guards before (Josh Selby, Xavier Henry, Ben McLemore and Andrew Wiggins) so there's no reason to think that he wouldn't do the same for Newman.
Newman's attacking style can take some of the heat off returning starters Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden, Jr. and vice versa. This would help for an easy transition to the next level for Newman and prepare him for the point guard position he will more than likely play in the NBA.
4. Ole Miss
Probably the team that needs Newman the most, the Rebels have been working hard on Newman for the past three years. For a team that has zero NBA presence and has played in a dark, sticky basement for the past 49 seasons, this could be the way for Ole Miss to launch itself back into college basketball relevance.
The Rebels have the point guard position laid out on a platinum silver platter for Newman and the chance to christen a brand spanking new arena as well. With Stefan Moody returning to play the two-guard and four big men on the roster already, Newman would have more than capable help to have a flashy freshman year before heading to the league. Although still considered a long shot, Andy Kennedy seems to think he still has a fighting chance for Malik.
5. Mississippi State
For those that don't already know, Newman's father played in Starkville for Richard Williams in the late 90's. But, Rick is gone and so is another Rick (WHO'S DANCING NOW?!). Now, Ben Howland is at the helm and is coming after Newman with the crootin full-court press. Saying that immediate playing time is available in the Hump next season is an incredible understatement for a team that finished 13-19 and a miserable 6-12 in the SEC.
Howland, who led UCLA to three straight Final Fours and a runner-up finish in 2006, has a nice resume of developing guards himself (Trevor Ariza, Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams). Newman has seemed to warm up to Howland and the thought of playing in Starkville, but it might be too little too late.
As mentioned in Cronin's story for the Clarion-Ledger, Newman has somewhat entertained the thought of signing a one-year pro contract abroad. The perks of this outside-the-box decision is simple: money.
There are some precedents here. Former top five player Emmanuel Mudiay turned on his commitment to SMU last year to sign a one-year, $1.2 million contract to play in the Chinese Basketball Association (it should be noted that Mudiay was facing eligibility issues with the NCAA). In 12 games, Mudiay averaged 18.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Now, he's projected to go top 10 in this year's NBA Draft.
There's also current Detroit Pistons' star Brandon Jennings, who, instead of attending Arizona, opted to spend the 2008 season playing in Italy before entering the NBA Draft a year later. He was then drafted 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks after he averaged 7.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.2 steals in 19.6 minutes per game in just 16 games.
With that said, this doesn't seem to be something Newman's seriously considering.
"The money is on time, it is real, but I don't think that's an option for Malik," his dad told the Clarion-Ledger.
Newman himself said that he and his dad "joked about it a few times but I don't think it's anything serious that we're thinking about."
With all of these options, Newman will have a very tough decision to make very soon. Whether the decision is beneficial for Ole Miss remains to be seen.