LAWRENCE — On the heels of a dynamic postseason and starring role in Kansas basketball’s run to a Final Four, Malik Newman feels he’s ready to take his career to the next level.
Newman will forego his final two seasons of eligibility to enter this summer’s NBA Draft and will hire an agent, eliminating the possibility of a return to the college ranks, the Jayhawk sophomore guard announced Wednesday afternoon in a news release. Newman averaged 14.2 points and five rebounds in his lone season with KU.
A Mississippi State transfer who sat out the 2016-17 season, Newman was named most outstanding player of both the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Regional throughout a postseason in which he averaged 22.5 points over the Jayhawks’ final eight games.
“The journey with these guys has been nothing short of amazing,” Newman said in the release. “My two years here was everything that I asked for. My redshirt year, I had a chance to develop and (coach Bill) Self took me under his wing and really prepared me. This year I had a chance to come out and play and this was the plan, to try to put myself in position to chase my dream.”
Newman said he came to his decision after discussing his options with his family and Self.
“I cannot thank the Kansas fans enough,” Newman said. “They have been there since day one and have supported me throughout my two years at Kansas. I’ll always be a Jayhawk and this will always be home for me.”
Newman’s career highlight at KU will arguably be his 32-point effort in an 85-81 overtime victory against Duke in the Elite Eight, a contest in which the Jackson, Miss., native played suffocating defense on the Blue Devils’ Grayson Allen before scoring all 13 of the Jayhawks’ points in the overtime session.
“Malik has done everything that we had agreed to,” Self said in the release. “He came to Kansas and knew after a redshirt year he would hopefully put himself into a position to be a professional basketball player after one year competing. He had a terrific season this year and was one of the best players in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think this is good timing for Malik. We wish nothing but the best for him and appreciate all his efforts. We all know his best basketball is still ahead of him.”
A former McDonald’s All-American, five-star recruit and the nation’s top-ranked guard in the Class of 2015, Newman struggled at Mississippi State before testing the waters at the 2016 NBA Draft combine without hiring an agent before returning to the college level and KU, a program originally in on his first recruitment.
All told, Newman shot 46.3 percent from the field and 41.5 percent from 3-point range in his lone season in Lawrence. This year’s NBA Draft combine is set for May 16-20 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Newman’s departure leaves two pending decisions for current KU players. Junior guard Lagerald Vick and sophomore center Udoka Azubuike are both candidates to leave early for the pros, though neither is listed as expected first- or second-round selections in the upcoming draft at most projection outlets.
If both depart, KU would have no seniors and only three juniors among its expected contributors on the 2018-19 roster — forward Mitch Lightfoot, guard Sam Cunliffe and redshirt forward Dedric Lawson. Lawson and his brother K.J. sat out last season as transfers from Memphis, as did guard Charlie Moore, a Cal transfer.
Wednesday’s news also opens the door for one of the Jayhawks’ final targets in the Class of 2018, five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford, to sign with KU. The highest-ranked unsigned player in the upcoming recruiting class (No. 6 at Rivals.com), Langford is down to KU, Indiana and Vanderbilt and is expected to make his decision by the end of the month.
Even without Langford, the Jayhawks already have five-star guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes, four-star center David McCormack and three-star guard Ochai Agbaji among their incoming recruiting class.