Tom Keegan: Malik Newman finds his role, confidence through rebounding

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) gets under Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) for a bucket late during the second half, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

Manhattan — Gone is the first-year Kansas player who at times looked lost in thought, wondering how to fit in, what to do and what not to do.

Nine days after the calendar flipped to 2018 that player faded away.

In his place is a new Malik Newman. He has found himself, though not the same self who had Kansas and others tripping over each other in a recruiting battle won by Mississippi State.

This Newman isn’t the scorer other teams spend a great deal of time wondering how they’ll shut down. He’s not the team’s primary ball handler and will never be a shut-down defender.

But he has figured out how to fit in and he does so by embracing a utility role, doing whatever the team needs at the moment. A 3-pointer here, a drive there, and a whole lot of defensive rebounds.

He figured out how to become a Bill Self player the moment he stopped trying to figure out how to become a Bill Self player. The way to do that is to stop thinking and start playing the most aggressive basketball of your life in every facet of the game.

In doing so, Newman made a discovery along the way. It turns out he’s a darn good rebounder.

Newman, a red-shirt sophomore from Jackson, Mississippi, produced the first double-double of his college career in helping Kansas to drub Kansas State, 70-56, in Bramlage Coliseum.

He produced 13 points and 10 rebounds and was the player most responsible for Kansas breaking a 10-game streak of getting fewer rebounds than the opposition. KU owned the boards, 41-31.

Newman's soaring high enough to grab rebounds off the rim before anybody else can get to them.

Udoka Azubuike leads the team with 103 defensive rebounds, but Newman is gaining on him and has 99. He passed Lagerald Vick (95) Monday night.

Related document

Box score: Kansas 70, Kansas State 56 ( .PDF )

How does he do it?

“I just try to see where the ball’s going and just use my quick jumping ability before anyone can react to it,” Newman said.

It’s more than just rebounding. He’s settling for jumpers less, driving to the hoop more.

“I think earlier I was out there overthinking, trying to play mistake-free basketball,” Newman said. “When you do that you’re going to look slow and look like you’re not supposed to be out there. I just had to look in the mirror, find my confidence again and make winning plays.”

Kansas senior leader Devonte’ Graham has noticed the same trait bubbling to the surface in Newman.

“I think his confidence is going up,” Graham said. “We know that he means a lot to the team. He can get on the glass and rebound for us defensively. I feel like he’s been playing really well lately. He just needs to keep on that wave for us and stay aggressive.”

Newman’s Monday minutes supplied the best evidence of his value. He played all 40 for the first time this season. In the past four games, Newman is averaging 37.3 minutes, 18 points and 7.3 rebounds.

He sent credit to his coach Bill Self for developing confidence.

“When you know you have a coach who’s on your side who wants you to succeed makes it a lot easier,” Newman said.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Kansas State


By the Numbers: Kansas 70, Kansas State 56

By the Numbers: Kansas 70, Kansas State 56

Comments

Bryce Landon

Earlier in the year, I would cringe watching Malik Newman with the ball in his hands, because I knew he was a turnover or blocked shot waiting to happen. Now I feel a lot better when I see the ball in his hands.

Silvio and Sam should take a cue from Malik. They'll figure it out soon enough.

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Robert Brock

Silvio is completely lost out there. He is a next-year player. He should be an adequate sub for the big Lawson kid.

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Craig Carson

the game still seems like it moves too fast for him..then again, its ONLY the 6th game...thanks to Garrett picking up early fouls Cunliffe got some good minutes and he actually scored..he also shot an airball, but at least it was an open shot and not something forced...

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Bill Lamson

As a KU fan for the last 30 years, I can honestly say Newman has turned in probably one of the most dramatic in-season improvements I've ever seen. Some players might have flashed a couple of 30 pt games here and there, but Newman has significantly improved in almost every area of his game, and you rarely see that happen to such a degree during the season. Probably the most notable is that now he finishes at the rim. The first 1/2 of the season he routinely missed layups or had them blocked..and now that almost never happens. And his outside shooting is both more selective but also aggressive. He's going to be a tough player to guard given his ability to both drive and shoot 3's....very glad he's doing so well!

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Bryce Landon

Tyshawn Taylor's senior year ranked up there. Early on he was as inconsistent and mercurial as any player I'd ever seen in a Kansas uniform. But everything changed after the loss to Davidson in KC. He grew up in a hurry and became the leader Self always wanted him to be. Without Tyshawn, we wouldn't have reached the title game or even gotten to the Final Four.

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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David Robinett

Speaking of improvement, I had totally given up on Svi after last year and his defensive lapses, and inconsistent offense. But he has really been clutch this year. A few games ago he was missing the bunny drives but now he’s figured out how to flip it just right. And those were totally clutch threes down the stretch last night.

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Bryce Landon

Not to mention how he ran up behind Sneed and blocked his dunk attempt from behind!

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Dirk Medema

It is fun to see the confidence grow on their faces.

Absolutely right about Svi also. His switch flipped much sooner this season but he is tremendously improved over the first few games. Mitch too.

Now if we can just get Vick back.

Even Sam seemed to at least have moved away from the old habits though he is now thinking so much he can't even grab a pass (3?).

Silvio also sounds like a Dok/JoJo workaholic winner. He's probably on par with finishing summer school & boot camp. February is his preseason then watch him explode in March and April.

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Harlan Hobbs

Great post, Mr. Lamson. You hit all the notes perfectly about Malik. He is the biggest factor in KU's improvement and has added a dimension of leadership that makes KU more versatile.

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Craig Carson

Newman stepped up right when we needed him too..Vick has all but vanished during conference play..I cant bare to imagine how many more losses KU would have had if Newman had been playing the way he had in the start of the season along with Vick vanishing

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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Jonathan Allison

Early in the year Newman looked smaller than his size because he was playing smaller than his size. In fact I was stunned by how much smaller he looked from what I was expecting early in the year. And I know that he's no 6'6" 220 lb MJ clone. I knew that he's a 6'2" speed demon combo guard. But the way that he moved both with/without the ball and on defense as well he just was playing like a little guy.

Now Newman looks bigger than his size and he definitely is playing above his size especially soaring and blazing for rebounds. Also he is developing more of a knack for finishing in traffic both by initiating contact as well as by using reverse layups, high release angles etc.

Nobody defined playing above his size like Frank Mason and I had figured Newman to be a bigger, faster, more athletic finisher than Frank. Early in the season he just was reckless and would throw up a sloppy layup only to see it rejected time after time. Now he's learning to control his body, create contact and finish under control. If he continues to develop this skill set then the sky is the limit for him. I had said it before and I'll say it again, he should come back next year. He could be the star despite the stellar 5* recruiting class.

2 weeks, 6 days ago

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