Malik Newman, Trevon Duval prefer to keep things in the present
CHICAGO — The closest Trevon Duval came to sharing a locker room with the Jayhawks, at least by proximity, came on Tuesday night.
Deep inside the corridors winding throughout the basement level of United Center, the Duke and KU locker rooms were separated by a matter of feet. After surviving his first test, a win over No. 2 Michigan State in which Grayson Allen tallied 37 points, the point guard and former KU target sat in — not in front of, but in — his locker, flashing a smile that revealed a busted lip as he spoke.
"We can always get better," Duval said. "We all feel like we didn't play our best today, as a whole, but this game is over so now it's on to the next one."
That next-play type of mentality was a constant for the freshman.
Asked about all the great teams in the Champions Classic and prompted by the topic of Kansas being among his final schools, Duval simply volunteered that, "Yeah, Kansas was in there."
Asked about the details of his recruitment and how close he was to picking the Jayhawks, Duval volunteered little more.
"Uh, Kansas. I liked Kansas a little bit," Duval said. "But I'm here now, so I really liked Duke. That's all that really matters."
In that regard, he wasn't the only player who preferred to keep the focus on the game.
While Duval was magnificent against the Spartans, finishing with 17 points, 10 assists, 6 steals and 3 rebounds, Malik Newman's night was more of a mixed bag.
On one hand, the guard hit arguably KU's biggest shot and two important late free throws in the 65-61 win. Plus, he led the Jayhawks with nine rebounds on a night in which they crushed a bigger Kentucky squad on the offensive glass.
On the other, the red-shirt sophomore tallied more shot attempts (14) than points (12) and was swatted on several occasions at the rim. In fact, after Newman was rejected on two closely-occurring sequences, KU fans on Twitter seemed to be having flashbacks to the last meeting between the two teams in the event, when then-sophomore Frank Mason III made just one of 10 field goal attempts in a 32-point KU loss.
But this blog isn't about that. If you want to read about the game, there's plenty for you right here.
This is about what happened next.
In the post-game press conference, Newman answered questions about a variety of topics. He was even a good sport when he was asked how KU could build off the win, joking the next step was to get back in the gym and start shooting.
The one question he didn't answer, though, was completely unrelated.
On what was supposed to be the final question of the press conference, Newman was asked by a reporter why Mississippi State wasn't the right fit and why Kansas was.
As the words "Mississippi State" left the reporter's mouth, Newman's demeanor changed. He reached over at a stat sheet to his right and moved over a couple feet, staring down at it before picking his head up to deliver his answer.
"I have no comment on that," Newman said.
At this point, where the games actually matter and the mistakes and big shots all count for real, who could blame him?