By Rustin Dodd
It’s lining up to be a convenient basketball recruiting week for Kansas. The nation’s No. 1 overall player in the class of 2015 — combo guard Malik Newman — is expected to be in KU’s own backyard this week, competing in the Under Armour Jayhawk Invitational in Gardner.
In the world of AAU basketball, schedules and rosters can fluctuate at the last minute, but Newman, a 6-foot-3 guard from Jackson, Miss., is slated to play for Mo Williams Academy, which will open the tournament at 8:20 p.m. Friday against Kansas City-based Run GMC at New Century Fieldhouse, 551 New Century Parkway.
Run GMC features Blue Springs South standout Kevin Puryear, Lee’s Summit’s Drew Lock, who has committed to play quarterback at Mizzou, and Columbia Hickman standout Jimmy Whitt.
Kansas coach Bill Self, of course, is still working on adding some final pieces to his 2014 recruiting class. But while KU waits for decisions from five-star center Myles Turner and rising point guard Devonte Graham, Newman figures to be one of Self’s top targets in the 2015 class. Self and assistant Jerrance Howard conducted an in-home visit with Newman earlier this month.
Newman, who has led Jackson-Callaway High School to three straight Mississippi state titles, has drawn heavy interest from Kentucky, Duke, Baylor, Missouri (before the departure of Frank Haith), Memphis, as well as Kansas. The list of suitors is longer than that, of course. But Newman still has an entire summer before he begins his senior year of high school.
Rivals’ recruiting analyst Eric Bossi likened Newman’s game to former UConn star Ben Gordon, an athletic combo guard with a scorer’s mentality.
Rivals’ scouting report described him as a “a scoring machine who is virtually unstoppable on the offensive end. (Newman) has a beautiful jumper that features deep range and he’s plenty capable of creating off the dribble; has a body that is built for contact. Ideally, (Newman) will develop more point guard skills because he is slightly undersized as a two.”
At least two other five-star recruits are expected to be in town this weekend: Diamond Stone, a 6-foot-10 center from Milwaukee, will play for the Young Legends team that opens the tournament against 1 Nation at 7:10 p.m. Friday at the New Century Fieldhouse. Stone is rated as the No. 3 overall player in Rivals’ 2015 class, holding offers from more than a dozen schools.
Stone will face off against 1 Nation’s Josh Jackson, a Detroit shooting guard rated as Rivals’ No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2016. Jackson holds scholarship offers from Kansas, Louisville, Ohio State, Memphis and Oregon, among others, according to Rivals.