- Paul Biancardi, Basketball Recruiting
On Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation released its updated 2015 ESPN 60, and with it, crowned a new No. 1 player in the junior class: shooting guard Malik Newman (Callaway/Jackson, Miss.). In a class known for its bigs -- nine of the top 15 players in the ESPN 60 are either power forwards or centers -- Newman takes over the top spot because of his elite ability to score.
Newman edged out super skilled left-hander Stephen Zimmerman (Bishop Gorman/Las Vegas), who jumped five spots to No. 2 overall, and Ivan Rabb (Bishop O'Dowd/Oakland, Calif.), who is the best athlete and finisher in the class. Rabb plays the game with an energy and motor that sets him apart. Ben Simmons (Montverde/Melbourne, Fla.), the No. 4 overall prospect, was also in the conversation as he possesses a blend of bounce, a soft shooting touch beyond the arc and above-average passing abilities.
Newman had been ranked No. 3, but it became evident this summer that he has the ability to alter the game with his scoring talents.
He does his best work as soon as the ball touches his hands as he has the physical tools to push the ball with great speed on the break. He puts defenders on their heels as he will go end line-to-end line and finish with power, body control and touch. Anytime he enters the lane, he will take contact and head to the free throw line. He also demonstrates consistency beyond the arc, making close to 35 percent of his shots.
This summer, Newman enjoyed breakout performances during the Nike EYBL summer league in the 17-and-under division, leading all scorers with an average of 25 points per game. While playing for USA Basketball, he led his team in scoring and to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in June in Uruguay.
Newman loves to operate with the ball in his hands, driving all the way for a score or finding a teammate for a kick-out or drop-off pass. In ball screen action, he is hard to guard because he gets low, attacks the defender of the screener or stops behind the screen and hits a 3. What makes him such a dynamic scorer is how he can rhythm dribble into a pocket and pull up with balance and body control and nail the shot.
He is always thinking about scoring, which is why we've listed him as a scoring guard and not a point guard at this stage of his career. To his credit, Newman has improved his assist numbers although he still needs to improve his assists-to-turnovers ratio. He has also worked on his rebounding skills from the perimeter on the defensive side of the ball.
To convert to a full-time point guard, his decision-making must continue to improve. He must learn how to balance the playmaking role of a point guard without losing the attacking, probing style that makes him outstanding at putting the ball in the basket.
Newman is the perfect combination of being highly productive with plenty of room for growth. He is the best scoring prospect among his peers and is on par with any offensive player regardless of class.