KU basketball’s Malik Newman looking to overcome concussion, uneven start

Sophomore guard’s activity level not very good at all, Bill Self says

LAWRENCE — The last few minutes of Sunday’s game were a headache for Malik Newman.

 

The same — though in a far less literal sense — likely could be said of his preceding 38 minutes, or of the sophomore’s uneven first few contests in a Kansas uniform.

Newman suffered a concussion with less than two minutes to play in the No. 13 Jayhawks’ last contest, a 95-85 defeat to now No. 5-ranked Arizona State at Allen Fieldhouse. A collision knocked the starting guard out of a shoe and eventually led to Newman being helped off the court, his jersey pulled over his face to shield him from the arena lights.

The finish was a blur for Newman, who had 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.

“I blacked out for a little while,” said Newman, who added Sunday was his first concussion. “When I finally got it together I kind of knew what was going on then, but once it happened I kind of blacked out. … Just a lot of headaches. A lot of headaches.”

Those headaches have limited Newman in this week’s practices, but both he and KU coach Bill Self expect the former Mississippi State transfer to be cleared for the Jayhawks’ next contest, a 7 p.m. Saturday tilt at Nebraska where KU (7-2) will look to avoid a three-game losing streak.

Self is hopeful Newman can break out against the Cornhuskers (7-4), but he’s honest when evaluating the first nine games of Newman’s season.

“I don’t think his activity level is very good at all,” Self said of Newman, who averages 1.2 steals and 2.6 assists. “I think he’s a good offensive player if he’d score the ball, but it would be nice if he can do some things to create some energy as opposed to just basically being a shooter, so to speak. I think he can play faster, and I’m not talking about shoot it faster. I’m talking about being decisive in everything he does movement-wise.

“He’s doing fine, but I think he would be the first to tell you he could do a lot more.”

Newman averages 11.6 points on 45.8 percent shooting with a 40.5-percent clip from 3-point range. While those are respectable numbers, they’re not yet at the All-Big 12 levels Self said he expected of Newman, a sophomore who once was a five-star prospect and Rivals’ No. 8 national recruit.

“I would say athletically he’s just not playing to his athletic ability at all,” Self said. “Everybody goes through different things. Tyrel Reed, I used to get on him all the time — ‘Best athlete in the gym and how many steals did you get?’ Malik is certainly not the best athlete in the gym, but he’s a guy who can, through positioning and through mindset, I think, do a lot more to help our team be better, especially on the defensive end.”

Newman said Self has challenged the team defensively, but added that’s been a common theme since the summer. Diagnosing the Jayhawks’ problems, Newman identified defense as the biggest key.

“Our defense just overall just hasn’t been good the last couple games,” Newman said. “I think overall the whole defensive scheme we were trying to do as far as our man-to-man and how we’re trying to play, I just don’t think we were locked into it.”

Self observed the same Sunday, leading him to publicly wonder whether implementation of a matchup zone would be best for his team in the long run. Newman, though, argued the team could still be a good man-to-man-exclusive defense, which he said he prefers.

“I think it’s easier than (zone),” Newman said. “I think it’s more responsibility. Like, you know this is your man and you know what he’s capable of and what he can do. You just lock in and guard ’em and you’ve got help all over.”

Reminded of another recent Self comment — that the coach is struggling to find players with a “dog-like mentality,” a void left by the departures of Frank Mason and Josh Jackson — Newman said he believes everyone on the team is capable of that mindset.

“Even myself,” Newman said. “I don’t think that we do it all the time and I think that’s the problem. We may have a stretch where it’s either the beginning of a game, middle of a game or even the end of the game where we may do that, but we have yet to put 40 minutes together where we can do that. I think right now that’s our problem.”

Before fixing that problem, Newman must overcome the concussion, a process that began in earnest Monday when the guard took his first exam of finals week.

“It wasn’t a good one,” Newman said with a smile. “As far as just looking at the paper the whole time, the words looked like they started moving all over the paper and things like that. But I’m sure I did good.”

TopTankTickets
 

More

Olathe West takes control in the second half to drop Topeka West, 68-36

OLATHE — Topeka West led at the end of the first quarter Wednesday night and the Chargers were within four points at... Read more