Can Kansas sophomore Malik Newman play some point guard?
Kansas sophomore Malik Newman got the opportunity on Wednesday to show off his point guard skills for a portion of the annual camp scrimmage, won, 82-75, by the current team over a star-studded cast of former Jayhawks.
And it came against some of the best point guards of the Bill Self era.
Sure, there may be an age gap. And, whether because of age or injury or both, it’s hard to imagine that any of them were in as good of shape as Newman. But still, these were big time players. Names like Mario Chalmers, Russell Robinson and Sherron Collins, along with others, all took a turn at guarding and going at Newman.
The Mississippi State transfer finished with 18 points and seemed both completely comfortable and wildly excited about the opportunity to face some of these former Kansas greats, many of whom walked away impressed.
“They’re gonna be great,” said Chalmers after the scrimmage of Newman and senior-to-be Devonte’ Graham. “I have high expectations for both of them, especially Malik Newman. They’ve got to pick up the slack from Frank (Mason) and they’re two good guards we need up top.”
Asked specifically if he thought Newman could play the point, Chalmers, the eight-year NBA veteran who, after a year and a half off to recover from a variety of injuries, is eagerly looking forward to his own return, was not willing to make any concrete statements either way.
“This was the first time I’ve seen Malik play,” he said. “So, just from this game, it’d be hard to tell just because this is an all-star game and everybody wants to shoot and go at it. But coach Self will make sure that he has a point guard, I’m not worried about that.”
Newman himself said playing on the ball was something he worked on a great deal during his transfer year, both to grow his own game and also for the good of the team.
“With the sit-out year, that’s something that I worked on a lot because I know Devonte’ isn’t gonna be able to bring the ball up the whole game by himself,” he said.
Regardless of who has the ball in his hands the most — all signs point to Graham running the point the majority of the time, but Newman and even Lagerald Vick, Svi Mykhailiuk and freshman Marcus Garrett also may take a turn next season — the reality of Newman’s growth in that area is that the Jayhawks, as head coach Bill Self likes, now figure to feature a versatile and balanced backcourt.
As for Self’s take on Newman, he’s not all that interested in labels.
“I think Malik’s just a guard,” Self told the Journal-World earlier this spring. “He can play with the ball in his hands, but he’s probably better off the ball. He and Devonte’ could obviously be a nice combination.”
In scoring 46 points against some of KU’s biggest names of the recent past, the duo showed exactly that on Wednesday.
And from the sound of things, they’re just getting started.
“It was good,” Newman said of his pseudo first game in a Kansas uniform. “That’s why I came here, to play with an awesome group of guys and in front of a great crowd. And I think we did good for our first time together.”