Monday, March 26, 2018

Tom Keegan: Malik Newman’s rise makes Kansas a much tougher out

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) pumps his fist as the Jayhawks lock up the win against Seton Hall with seconds remaining in the game, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) pumps his fist as the Jayhawks lock up the win against Seton Hall with seconds remaining in the game, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.


McDonald’s All-American. A dominant scorer for the scout team against Kansas regulars last season. Predicted by no less an authority than Bill Self to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors once he became eligible after transferring from Mississippi State.

We heard all about Malik Newman, and couldn’t wait to see him play and join Devonte’ Graham for what surely would be one of the nation’s best backcourts.

And then the season started, and so did the wait for the real Malik Newman to stand up.

How could a player so young age so poorly?

Another question has taken its place: How could a player become that much better so quickly?

After Newman’s redshirt season, Self inherited a B player, harped on all the warts that kept him from developing into an A player and, in so doing, temporarily turned him into a C player.

Once Newman began to shore up his weaknesses, he put his mind at ease and went about showing the source of all the fuss over him throughout most of his career. And ever since the postseason started, Newman has been a straight-A performer.

Newman stung Duke with 32 points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steals in KU’s 85-81 overtime victory Sunday in Omaha, Neb., sending the Jayhawks to their first Final Four since 2012.

He scored 13 second-half points and all 13 of KU’s points in the five-minute overtime period.

“Here of late, Devonte’ has got a sidekick, or you could even say Malik has got a sidekick in Devonte’, because he’s been our best player without question the last month,” Kansas coach Bill Self said Monday.

Newman was named most outstanding player in the Big 12 tournament and Midwest Regional.

In seven postseason contests — three in the Big 12, four in the NCAA tourney — Newman has averaged 22.7 points. He averaged 12 points in his first 31 games for KU. During his seven-game hot streak, Newman has averaged four made 3-pointers per game and shot .549 from beyond the arc.

“In the last three weeks or a month, it's just incredible how he has performed in all areas,” Self said. “Everybody talked about his 32 yesterday, but the job he did on Grayson Allen yesterday was tremendous.”

Early in the season, Self’s frustration with Newman’s lack of an all-around game grew to the point he didn’t start him in six games.

“He's always been a good offensive player, but I was on his butt pretty hard for not doing some other things, and that probably limited his offense, as well,” Self said. “… He's always been a good defensive rebounder for us this year, but I didn't feel like he did anything to take any pressure off of Devonte'. He didn't drive the ball to ever get him a shot off the catch. Devonte' had to do everything off the bounce. You know, I just felt like he was forcing Devonte' to do too much. And we made that very clear to him.”

The message took root and Newman took off.

“Malik was just unbelievable,” CBS color commentator Bill Raftery said Sunday night on his way out of CenturyLink Center. “He’s just put this team on his shoulder.”

After a so-so freshman season at Mississippi State, Newman went to the NBA scouting combine and was told he wasn’t ready to jump from the college ranks. He used his redshirt season at Kansas to work on his game.

“I thought last year he did a great job of doing things that the NBA people said he needed to improve on, without question,” Self said. “But you know, when you're coaching a redshirt, I don't think that when they're on the scout team and they take a bad shot or don't guard one day as well as they should, it's usually not the same emphasis if you're eligible and playing ample minutes. He looked great last year to us, but he probably got by with some stuff.”

Kansas was 19-6 until winning 12 of its past 13 games.

“Like coach said, we had a lot of hard lessons early in the season,” Newman said. “We had some tough losses and things like that.”

Newman’s emergence has made Kansas a much tougher out and the tough wins just keep mounting for KU.


Bryce Landon 2 years, 6 months ago

"How could a player age so young age so poorly?"

That sentence doesn't make any sense.

"Newman stung Duke with 32 points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steals in KU’s 80-76 overtime victory Sunday in Omaha, Neb., sending the Jayhawks to their first Final Four since 2012."

No, the score was 85-81. It was the Clemson game that ended in the 80-76 score.

Tom, usually you're better than this, so I'll chalk this up to you being up all night last night.

Shianguu Hsieh 2 years, 6 months ago

May I suggest a nick name for our new rising star: "Marlikch Madness"! He is going to help us win our 4th national championship.

Brad Farha 2 years, 6 months ago

Hoping he helps us win our 6th national championship! We have 2 championships that predate the NCAA.

Danny Hernandez 2 years, 6 months ago

can anyone tell me about the redshirts, are they allowed to travel with the team? or do they stay behind in the dorms? I was just curious if they're allowed to celebrate with the eligible players on the road or what?

Tony Bandle 2 years, 6 months ago

Google NCAA red shirts for a more detailed explanation but briefly travel-yes, dress out and sit on bench - yes, but as soon as they play even one minute of live competition, the red shirt is negated and their year of eligibility goes into effect. It does happen that sometimes due to injury, ineligibility or player dismissals, a red shirt player will be activated in the middle of the season.

Danny Hernandez 2 years, 6 months ago

I should have said Transfers like in Charlie Moore and the Lawson brothers situation

Tony Bandle 2 years, 6 months ago

Same thing for transfers as red shirts which they actually are considered as well.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 6 months ago

You can see them on the bench when you're watching the game...

Brad Farha 2 years, 6 months ago

Moore and the Lawsons are different. They are using their redshirt year for their transfer year. Unlike a Freshman who redshirts during their first season, they can't come off the bench (burn their redshirt) to help us in a game. They have to sit out for 1 year.

Tony Bandle 2 years, 6 months ago

Can you all imagine the devastation KU could wreak if Malik, Svi, Devonte and Lagerald were all on their three point game and Dok was cleaning up any misses in the middle??!!

KU would break the 100 point barrier.

FYI: Current school win totals: Kentucky 2256, Kansas 2244 and counting, North Carolina 2232. We've cut deeply into UK and have edged a little farther from NC.

Dave Miller 2 years, 6 months ago

I was hoping that KU could pick up a game or two on KY this season. I hope KU picks up several games next season. Next year KU should be loaded and hopefully the difference will be down to single digits!

Jeff Bandle 2 years, 6 months ago

Don't worry..once KU gets close, Kentucky will dig around and find 6-7 extra wins against Cumberland YMCA and First United Methodist Church of Bowling Green.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 6 months ago

“Here of late, Devonte’ has got a sidekick, or you could even say Malik has got a sidekick in Devonte’,

No. I don't agree that you could say 'Malik has got a sidekick in Devonte'.

Brad Watson 2 years, 6 months ago

MALIK......YOU ARE A NCAA FIRST TEAM ALL AMERICAN IN MY BOOK!!.....Keep up the great play and help lead this team to where it needs to go!

Harlan Hobbs 2 years, 6 months ago

Between Malik, Udoka, and Silvio, KU has added dimensions that they didn't have the past two years against Villanova and Oregon in the Elite Eight. Against Villanova, Jay Wright specifically said that they weren't going to let Perry Ellis beat them, and it was a superb coaching move by him on his way to the National Championship over North Carolina.

Then, against Oregon, we had no answer for their big guards or their big man, Bell, in the post. Also, the outside game was missing.

This year, we have a clear threat inside while having four potential sharpshooters. Plus, with Malik driving to the basket and Lagerald or Marcus Garrett handling the middle of the zone if opponents use a zone, KU has all of the ingredients.

If they execute their game plans as Coach Self and his staff lay them out, KU has a very good chance of coming home with the trophy. What a climax that would be to an already great season.

Mike Greer 2 years, 6 months ago

To elaborate on Harlan's points, Devonte is no Frank Mason, but there are elements of his game that are better than Frank's, primarily passing. Svi is a better shooter than last couple of years and much better on defense. Vick, other than "the lost games", has played better than last season. Malik now is putting up Josh Jackson kinds of numbers. Dok, you can tell learned some things from Lucas last year, and adds a whole new dimension inside with his size and height. Silvio has added much needed rebounding and gets better every game, plus, you can just see he's a real competitor. Mitch has also stepped up parts of his game, he's blocked almost as many shots as Dok in about half the minutes. It just took all season to get all the pieces working at the same time.

Two years ago we just didn't have an answer when Nova took away Perry. Last year we were a Dok away of having the players to beat Oregon. Although this didn't look like a more complete team three months ago, it's sure looking pretty good right now.

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