From deep in the heart of Mississippi, stud 2015 point guard Malik Newman is regarded by some as the top overall prospect in the Class of 2015. Some regard him as a point, others as a combo guard, but regardless at this point, he is clearly a highly skilled scoring guard with deep range who can also handle it pretty well. He has a very strong body, and he uses it well to get into the lane almost at will. I didn't see enough of him to really assess his defensive abilities, but he's a kid with a good attitude and a lot of athleticism, so there's no reason he shouldn't be able to defend points and two-guards at the college level.
Personality-wise, he is a soft-spoken, respectful young man with a deep southern drawl, and one who, at least at this point, has not allowed all the attention he has recently garnered to go to his head. He's just beginning the recruitment process, really, so this one has a long way to go. Some say he ultimately may be tough to get out of SEC country, but to me it's way too early to make pronouncements like that.
Here's what he had to say in our recent sit-down:
BDN: All right. I’m here with Malik Newman, Class of 2015. You guys just had a tough game. Was that a tougher game than you expected?
MN: Yeah, it really was.
BDN: That team was aggressive, man.
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: So some of the Duke fans that will probably be reading this may not be as familiar with you as with some of the other guys. So tell me a little bit about your background. I know you’re from Mississippi. Tell me a little bit about yourself, your family, that kind of thing.
MN: I had a dad who was a former player –
BDN: He played, correct?
MN: Yes, sir, at Mississippi State. Also an uncle. I’m just a regular kid, fun to be around. I like to hang out. I just really love the game of basketball.
BDN: A lot of people got their attention on you after what happened in Vegas last week. That game that you guys played, with you and Mudiay, and Tyler Dorsey on the other side, people are talking about it like it was one of the greatest AAU games they’ve ever seen. Tell me about it. What was it like to play in a game like that?
MN: It was great. High competition, great competition. It was a fast paced game. We had --
BDN: You were knocking down three’s in that game.
MN: Yeah, you know, everyone was. Zimmerman, Tyler, Daniel, Mudiay, so . . . All of us, we were playing good, playing to the best of our ability, just trying to put on a good show.
BDN: It was high level.
MN: Yes, sir. Very high level.
BDN: Now, I know you played for USA Basketball this summer.
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: Tell me a little bit about that, what that was like. That was your first time playing USA?
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: Tell me about it.
MN: It was a great experience. For one, the top players in my class and the class under me, we all came together and you know, we put that “USA” across our chest and we decided that we were going to fight for each other and the country, for one another and try to help the USA shine. So it was a good experience going over there and learning about that culture and seeing their fans and things like that.
BDN: You ever been out of the country before?
MN: That was my first time.
BDN: First time out of the country, to Uruguay of all places, huh?
MN: Yes, sir. Uruguay.
BDN: Did you guys get out of the gym at all or out of the hotel and check out the country or was it just kind of a basketball thing?
MN: We did a little bit. You know, we played at 6:00 every day, so we had to go to walk-arounds, then we had to eat, then we had a little time to go walk around and things like that. But they really made us get off our feet a lot.
BDN: Now, there’s been some confusion with the Duke fans. Do you actually have an offer from Duke?
MN: Yes, I do.
BDN: OK. What was that like to get an offer from a program like Duke? How do they do it? Let the fans in on that process a little bit.
MN: Coach called my dad first.
BDN: Coach K?
MN: Yes. Coach K called my dad first. And then, after he called, what’s his name . . . Coach . . .
BDN: Coach Capel? Coach James? Coach Wojo?
MN: Coach Capel. Coach Capel called me later that day and he had a conversation with me. And he really just told me about the program, the ups and downs, the pro’s and con’s about it. And he really just told me it’d be a great experience for me and then he told me that I had an offer.
BDN: What other schools have offered you? Long list, I know. What are some of the top ones?
MN: Mississippi State, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas . . .
BDN: All the big boys.
MN: Yeah, it’s a lot. There’s a lot more.
BDN: What an honor, to have all these top schools interested in you?
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: Now, are you friendly with Rodney Hood?
MN: Yeah, very.
BDN: You guys talk a lot?
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: What has he told you about his experience – and I know he hasn’t played yet in an official game – but what does he have to tell you about his experience with the campus, the coaching staff, the program?
MN: He told me it was great. He told me it was really like no other campus, no other atmosphere. He said if you’re a part of Duke, then you really have no worries because the other team, they have worries when they come in there because the fans are so rowdy. But he told me it’s fun. He said they really love the game of basketball at Duke. So that’s a good thing there. He said it was great being up there.
BDN: How do you think you would fit in with Duke’s system?
MN: I think I’d fit in good. He lets them go and play how they want to play, but he keeps them under control, so that’s how I’m used to playing.
BDN: Now, most people I think would describe you as a scoring point guard. Sort of a combo guard. There’s no question you can shoot the rock. No doubt about that. Couple of other scouts that I’ve talked to said, “yeah, he can score. What I want to see is, I want to see him distribute. I want to see him make his teammates better. “ Are you working on that aspect of your game?
MN: Yes, I’ve been working on that all summer.
MN: Just getting involved with Mudiay. He really helped me become more of a point guard, because that’s the position that he plays. So he kinda taught me some of the things that – because he’s more experienced than me so he kinda taught me some of the things that he knows and I kinda added to my game. And being at camps like this, going to point guard camps, different things like that.
BDN: Are the schools that are recruiting you, including Duke, are they telling you “we see you as a point,” “we see you as a 2,” “we see you as a combo?” What do you think?
MN: Mainly they say they see me as a point. So that’s something I’ve really been working on. You never know how it turns out. Maybe at a crucial point in a game I have to play the 2, so --
BDN: You’ve got the handle, so it seems like you could do both.
MN: Yes, sir. So I really try to work on both positions.
BDN: Now let me just ask you, last thing. A lot of services, scouts, have you ranked the #1 player in the class right now. How do you handle that pressure, or do you feel pressure from it? How do you keep your head on straight?
MN: I feel no pressure at all. I have a great circle around me, so the people that are really close to me and really around me, they never let me get the big head, so I can really say it’s thanks to them it’s the reason why I’m so humble.
BDN: Who are the people that are in your closest circle that are going to be involved with your decisionmaking when it comes time for that?
MN: My dad, my mom, and my stepmom.
BDN: And do you have any visits planned, official or unofficial?
MN: No sir, not yet.
BDN: Not yet. You’re going to wait on that?
MN: Yes, sir.
BDN: OK. It’s been a pleasure to watch you play and definitely a pleasure to meet you. Thanks so much.
MN: Thank you, sir.