2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship MVP Malik Newman Relishes Golden Experience
Still basking in the glow of helping the USA U16 National Team capture the gold medal at the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Men is tournament MVP Malik Newman. The 6’4” guard from Jackson, Miss., led a team of the nation’s top 16-and-unders to a dominating performance against the hemisphere’s top young teams from June 11-15 in Maldonado, Uruguay.
“It was a great honor. I didn't really think I was going to get it, but wen they called my name it was all a blessing,” said Newman following the gold medal game. “I'm just glad my teammates believe in me and the coaches did also, and I'm just glad I had a great tournament with the USA team.”
When Newman, who carried his MVP trophy as his only carry-on during his return trip from Uruguay, arrived back in Mississippi, he needed a haircut. The humble, yet fun-loving young kid wasn’t thinking about a big celebration, he just needed a quick trim.
“They had a little get-together for me,” he said. “As soon as I got off the plane, I asked if I could get a haircut and then once I got home, everyone was there. It was like a little surprise get-together.”
It’s no wonder his family and friends wanted to celebrate.
While the U.S. outscored opponents by a tournament record-setting 53.4 points and outrebounded foes by a record 21.8 caroms a contest in its five games, it was the play of Callaway High School’s Newman that rose above the rest.
Newman, the 2013 MaxPreps National Sophomore of the Year who led Callaway to its second straight Mississippi Class 5A title this past season, not only finished as the USA’s leading scorer (16.2 ppg.), but he also led the squad in steals (2.8 spg.), free-throw percentage (.786) and 3-point field-goal percentage (.357), while seeing just over 22 minutes of action a contest. Among the eight-team field, Newman ranked fourth for scoring, behind three guys who saw much more playing time -- between 32 and 38 minutes a game. He also ranked eighth among all competitors for field-goal percentage (.469), second for free-throw percentage, second for steals and ninth for 3-point percentage.
Further, Newman had the best single-game shooting percentage of any player in the tournament after hitting 11-of-13 (.846) from the field against the Bahamas.
Not surprisingly, Newman was inundated with scholarship offers upon his return to the United States.
“They were from Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina State, Stanford and there were a couple more,” said Newman when asked to recall his more recent offers. “My dad has the rest because they've been calling my dad a lot.
“I kind of was (surprised),” he continued. “I really didn't think that they would come this soon, but for them to ask me, it must mean I was doing something right.”
Doing something right would be an understatement.
In the USA’s first game, a 130-31 victory over Mexico, Newman scored a team second-best 19 points. He followed that up with a 21-point outburst in the USA’s 96-72 defeat of South American rival Argentina and went off for 26 points in the final preliminary game, a 121-52 rout of Bahamas.
By then, the other teams were onto Newman’s talents. Double- and triple-teaming him in the semifinals and gold medal game might have been partially successful in limiting his scoring outbursts, however, it didn’t stop him from putting the rest of his repertoire of skills on display. Newman set screens for teammates, worked the ball around the perimeter, drove to the hoop to draw in the defense only to dish it out to an open man, and a pulled out a plethora of other tricks from his bag.
Against Puerto Rico, a 93-64 semifinal victory, Newman scored just six points, but in addition to the intangibles like deflections and screens, had three boards, three assists and four steals. In the gold medal game, he aided the USA to a 94-48 win over Argentina with nine points, two caroms, four dimes and four steals.
“His first two or three games were the best ones, but a good player’s going to be noticed by other teams, so he’s going to have a little bit harder time of it,” said USA head coach Don Showalter (Iowa City High School, Iowa) after the gold medal game. “Tonight I thought he made some great passes, he played some great defense, hit some shots. He does a lot of things for this team, and I think he deservedly gets the MVP.”
Newman, who was mobbed after the gold medal game by the local fans wanting an autograph, a picture with him, his jersey, any type of memento of the young prodigy, was amazed by the reaction of the hoop-crazed locals in Maldonado.
He’s also been a little amazed by the reaction he’s received since returning home. He’s become something of a local celebrity, both with the media and basketball folks alike.
“One thing that's changed is the media,” said Newman. “They've changed a lot. Like coach was saying, whenever my name is spoken now, it'll always have U16 gold medalist by it. That's something that's very, very true right now (in the media). Also, everyone, even people I don't know, they've been walking up to me and congratulating me and saying how proud they are of me for it. It's a great feeling.”
Newman not only came home with a gold medal and the MVP trophy, he returned with something even more important in the game of life: a group of guys he can count on like brothers.
“I think from day one, all the guys, we came together and started a kind of brotherhood from the start (of training camp),” he said. “Especially with this (U16) team. All of us are like brothers now. We're all family.”
And as a memento of that brotherhood, Newman has a shiny gold medal to remind him of all the great times they had en route to gold. It’s something he appreciates very much.
“I plan on framing it and saving it, because some people don't get the opportunity, don't get the chance to win a gold medal,” he said. “So, this is something very special to me.”
As for the MVP trophy he so carefully carried back with him from Uruguay?
“It's actually sitting in my room right now. I don't know what I'm going to do with it.”