Tom Keegan: Newman would be good get for Kansas

Mississippi State guard Malik Newman (14) dribbles up court past Arkansas forward Keaton Miles (55) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Mississippi State won 78-46. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi State guard Malik Newman (14) dribbles up court past Arkansas forward Keaton Miles (55) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Mississippi State won 78-46. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Any time a McDonald’s All-American advertised as a one-and-done sensation struggles to find consistency as a freshman and transfers, the spoiled-brat radar goes up, especially when a parent does his talking for him.

Then you look at what Horatio Webster said about his son, Malik Newman, leaving Mississippi State and a different picture emerges.

“He was just never in a happy place,” Webster told the Clarion-Ledger. “... People knew Malik had the Magic Johnson smile and he was happy and basketball was his life. I think in a sense some of that was taken away. I’m not saying that Ben (Howland, coach) took it away. But I think some of it was taken away due to injuries, due to style of play, due to his immaturity.”

Honest, reasonable take that suggests dad doesn’t think the world revolves around his perfect son. You have to love that Webster cited Malik’s “immaturity,” as one reason things didn’t work out.

Hubris could have forced Newman to make himself eligible for the NBA draft. Instead, he decided to transfer, which means he must sit out a year before gaining eligibility to play in games for his next school. Another good sign for a teenager who spent much of his life being told by strangers he’s the second coming of Michael Jordan.

Kansas coach Bill Self wanted Newman out of high school and he appears worth pursuing just as aggressively now with or without landing Duke transfer Derryck Thornton. Newman and Thornton hounding Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham every day in practice would make for some of the nation’s most heated guard battles.

Newman was ranked No. 1 by Rivals in the Class of 2016 as a junior and faded to eighth as a senior.

As is the case with many talented freshmen, Newman encountered mixed results. He averaged 11.3 points, 2.2 assists and 1.9 turnovers and shot .391 from the field and .379 on three-pointers. By the time he plays in his next game, Newman will be two years older, stronger and wiser than when he compiled those numbers. They all will get significantly better. As a freshman, Graham posted almost identical shooting statistics as Newman did for Mississippi State, shooting .391 from the field and .377 from three. As a sophomore, Graham improved to a .460 overall accuracy rate and .441 from three. Thornton, by the way, shot .390 overall for Duke and .325 from three.

The other benefit of taking transfers is that it’s they must fall in line, lest they be branded difficult to coach, which would hurt them in the draft.