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Monday, October 9, 2017

With the waiting now behind him, Malik Newman is ready to roll

Kansas guard Malik Newman

Kansas guard Malik Newman

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Before the 32-point explosion in Italy or his 19.3 points per game average in KU’s four exhibition contests overseas, there was the waiting — long, painful, miserable, dead-end waiting.

This was not the kind of waiting that drives one crazy at the DMV or while sitting in traffic after a sporting event. Heck, it wasn’t even the kind of waiting that comes when courting someone of the opposite sex and waiting for a reply to a text message that may never come.

Instead, this kind of waiting was the in-your-face, watch-while-everyone-else-is-having-fun-and-pretend-it-doesn’t-bother-you waiting and Kansas guard Malik Newman became a pro at it.

“It felt like forever,” Newman said this summer of his year away from basketball after transferring to KU from Mississippi State. “It feels like one of the longest things I’ve had to do; considering it (was only) a year, it felt way longer than a year.”

photo

Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas sophomore guard Malik Newman shoots a 3-pointer during the team's scrimmage in the 33rd-annual Late Night in the Phog on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

But now that the year has passed and Newman, a once-prized prospect from Mississippi who many believed would be in the NBA long before now, is back on the court, you won’t find many players enjoying it quite as much.

That was the case long before KU’s trip to Italy. But getting to put on a Kansas uniform for real and running up and down against someone other than his teammates — even if they were just exhibition games — brought the thrill back to Newman’s face and reminded him why he fell in love with basketball to begin with.

Sort of the poster child for transfers gone right, Newman said his year off helped him mature as a basketball player and a person.

“I kind of do feel older,” he said. “But in a good way, not in a my-body-hurts kind of way. I just feel wiser. I’m more confident. I think I have probably the most confidence that I’ve ever had right now and the guys I have around me, they want me to succeed, I want them to succeed. I think everything’s just clicking at the right time.”

While moving from the shadows to the spotlight could be a daunting transition for most, doing it at Kansas, where the fan base is rabid about all things Kansas basketball year round, has helped Newman prepare for it. Even while he was sitting out and wearing street clothes to games, he still was a part of the conversation.

Fans knew he was working and waiting in the wings. Those who showed up to Allen Fieldhouse on game nights super early often saw him out there working with assistant coach Jerrance Howard as if he were preparing to play.

KU coach Bill Self, on more than a couple of occasions during his year off, talked about Newman’s potential and set the bar high, expressing that he believed the Mississippi State transfer could, would and should play at an all-league level when his time came.

“(He’s the) best prototypical, what you would consider a shooting guard, that we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Self said during a recent radio appearance on KLWN.

photo

AP Photo/Antonio Calanni

Kansas guard Malik Newman goes for the basket during an exhibition game between KU and an Italian selection of players, in Seregno, near Milan, Italy, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017.

During that same segment, Self elaborated on Newman’s all-around game: “I like guys that are interchangeable, so when I look at Malik he’s athletic enough to defend a one, he’s big enough to defend a three, he can score off the catch but he can also go get it off the bounce. He’s capable of putting up some numbers. I’m excited about him.”

In order to live up to Self’s lofty expectations for him, Newman is going to have to deliver on defense and in the huddle, as a set-up man and a scorer. And all of those aspects are areas Newman worked on during his year off.

“I can’t just pinpoint one thing that I really grew in,” he said of his year off. “I think my overall game (grew), just going against those guys (Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason in practice last season) each and every day.”

While Newman now has made the shift from bench supporter to running mate, there’s no denying that he is most excited about getting an opportunity to fill Mason’s shoes and play alongside Graham in the Kansas backcourt.

“The brotherhood that me and him have built, he knows how I play, I know how he plays, just having an experienced guard back there with me has made a big difference,” Newman said.

Comments

Austin Lopez 2 months ago

Been a huge Malik Newman fan for some years!! Was disappointed when he committed MSU over KU, but at the end of the day he's here at KU and that's what matters.

Steve Zimmerman 2 months ago

Oh, yeah.. we know how capable this kid is. It'll be fun watching him, unleashing his hunger! I expect his 20pt for at least 10 games or more.

Danny Hernandez 2 months ago

I've often wondered how much of Frank Mason's success was partly due to Malik's play against him in practice?, I mean, it can't hurt having a 5 star player in practice going against you every practice.

Andy Godwin 2 months ago

If the play we watched in Italy is an indication of things to come, he will be a big time contributor this season. His first half of the 32 point game was reminiscent of a "Curry-like performance". However, a national championship run will depend on the limited depth of the frontline and staying healthy.

Robert Brock 2 months ago

Newman was once a fantastic prospect who started to soil the game when he tried to do too much by himself. HCBS's mission will be to get the rock out of Newman's hands and get Newman to play an all-around sort of game without forcing things. This should be a lot smoother Malik Newman we are going to watch this season.

Harlan Hobbs 2 months ago

Really like Coach Self's comment about "interchangeability". He has been a master of that over the years, and this year's team should be no different with Malik, Svi, Lagerald, Marcus, and perhaps others who can play multiple positions.

Also, Devonte can obviously play both guard positions, so if Marcus Garrett can demonstrate a feel for the point guard position in addition to what else he can play, then Devonte may be able to get some needed rest at times during the season.

The only potential weakness this year is in the front court. We have good people but not much depth again this year.

Marius Rowlanski 2 months ago

Not sure about 'soiling the game' Brock. It hardly compares to the current FBI corruption investigation.

Looking forward to seeing Newman and Graham playing together this season. We have an unbelievable mix of talented 1-3 players. I prefer Self's hi/low offense with 2 bigs but Self showed last year he can quickly go with 4 guards when the circumstances call for it.

Agree that 'interchangeability' is a key with this year's team but I don't see any guard that needs to put in Frank Mason minutes this year.

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 2 months ago

ever watch a game and just flex hard? that's how i feel when a ku kid is just that good.

Andrew Whitehead 2 months ago

Malik may be shaping up to be a poster child for transfers if all indicators turn out to be even 80% accurate. It seems like in the past most transfers tend to be role players or even impact guys, but not elite players with the potential to have an "all-American type season" as I believe Self was previously quoted as saying about Newman. With the rules surrounding transfer players currently being reviewed by the NCAA, I wonder whether potential rule changes will lead to an increase in transfers among more top-tier players. If so, Malik's coming success (knock on wood) this coming season will be a shining example for other more elite players to look to Kansas. For any future transfers who are looking to put themselves in the best position for a future NBA career, KU offers one of the premier strength/conditioning training coaches in Hudy, a HOF coach who knows how to put guys in the NBA, top talent to practice against every day, national exposure, and ridiculous player housing to enjoy the ride. Can't wait to see Malik and Devonte dominate the B12.

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