Just a couple days after it was reported that he would ultimately choose Mississippi State, five-star guard Malik Newman made the news official Friday afternoon. While Newman is the third member of the Bulldogs’ 2015 recruiting class, joining Quinndary Weatherspoon and Joseph Struggs, he’s the biggest piece for new head coach Ben Howland.
Turning around a program that’s struggled isn’t an easy task, but landing a difference-maker on the recruiting trail certainly helps matters and that’s what Howland has managed to do in reeling in Newman.
“Malik Newman committing is a big local and national statement for Ben Howland at Mississippi State,” NBC Sports recruiting insider Scott Phillips said. “Howland lands a signature local recruit just weeks into his new job and he’s getting one of the best scorers in the Class of 2015. Newman makes plays with the ball in his hands and isn’t afraid to pull up and shoot from anywhere inside of 25 feet.
“He’s also improved his recognition of high ball screens as a play maker for others and he should be a major contributor from the moment he steps on campus.”
Newman, who won four state titles at Callaway HS in Jackson, Mississippi, will play at the same school as his father who played for the Bulldogs from 1996-98. Newman committing to Mississippi State is a huge boost in the publicity department for a program that has seen better days. The next task is to turn things around in the win column.
Newman was also considering Kansas and Kentucky before choosing the Bulldogs.
Rivals released its final ranking of the Top 150 players in the Class of 2015, and the SEC commitment at the top of the list isn’t the player some would expect to be in that spot.
Skal Labissiere, who’s headed to Kentucky next season, leads the way in the Rivals150 rankings with LSU commit Ben Simmons next in line. Labissiere played well in both the Nike Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic this month, with his 21-point, six-rebound, six-block performance helping lead the World Team past the United State Select Team at the former.
Labissiere posted a double-double at the Jordan Brand Classic, tallying 11 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes of action. As for Simmons, he helped lead Montverde Academy to a National High School Invitational title in late March and also played in the McDonald’a All American Game in Chicago.
The remainder of the top five consists of forwards Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram and Cheick Diallo, with all three yet to commit to a school for next year. Their decisions, along with those of guard Malik Newman and forward Thon Maker (who are ranked eighth and ninth, respectively), will go along way towards shaping preseason expectations in college basketball for next season.
Rounding out the top ten in the Rivals 150 are Maryland commit Diamond Stone at six, Cal commit Ivan Rabb at seven, Newman, Maker and Kentucky commit Isaiah Briscoe at ten.
Malik Newman is expected to commit to Mississippi State at a press conference Friday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, sources told NBCSports.com.
One coach involved in Newman’s recruitment called it a “done deal.” However both Newman and his father disputed the reports, telling the Clarion-Ledger that no decision has been made at this time.
“When I sit down with my parents, if I think Mississippi State is the right place, then that’s where I’ll pick,” he said. “Like I said, right now I’m down to my final four schools. I don’t really care what the media is saying. I think wherever is the best spot for me is where I’ll pick.”
Newman is a top ten recruit and the top ranked guard in the country, according to Rivals. Draft Express projects him as a top five pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, making his pending arrival in Starkville huge for new Bulldog head coach Ben Howland should this be the case.
CBSSports.com earlier reported that Newman plans on committing to Mississippi State.
Newman’s recruitment has been an interesting one, as the Callaway HS (Jackson, Mississippi) star has already started building his brand. He’s got a sleek website, a nickname (The Machine) and a logo, not to mention that he’s already been a part of at least one documentary during his high school career.
There were six schools in Newman’s final list: Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, NC State and Mississippi State.