When Ben Howland was hired a few weeks ago to lead Mississippi State’s basketball program, my first thought was to the 2015-16 season. With a handful of seniors it was supposed to be Rick Ray’s best team – so just how far could Ben Howland push them?
My answer to that under Coach Ray would have been to the NIT. My answer under Coach Howland is still probably the NIT, but maybe they’d reach 20 wins.
Then comes the issue of Malik Newman. Did MSU stand any chance to sign him with Rick Ray as the coach? We’ll never know the answer to that – but we do know Coach Ray recruited him hard and we were typically noted in Newman’s top three choices. Nevertheless, can Ben Howland land the superstar top five player in America from Jackson?
Yes, he can.
Yes, he will.
Malik Newman will be playing at Mississippi State next season. That’s not breaking news, it’s just a prediction.
Why wouldn’t he? The team is senior-laden with Craig Sword, Fred Thomas, Gavin Ware and Travis Daniels. I.J. Ready will move to a backup point guard role behind Newman who will be running the floor. He will be State’s leading scorer and Howland will catapult him near the top of the 2016 NBA Draft.
Newman is a combo guard. There is no better combo guard in all of basketball than NBA scoring champion Russell Westbrook. And we all know who coached Westbrook in college at UCLA: Ben Howland.
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For three years Howland molded Westbrook from a 3-star shooting guard to star member of back-to-back-to-back Final Four teams to the fourth overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.
Ben Howland changes the game for Malik Newman. No longer is Mississippi State poised to be a cellar dweller. They are poised to take off like a rocket with Newman on the team.
What’s more, 6-9 Power Forward Ray Kasongo will be coming to MSU as well. He’ll provide much needed depth behind Gavin Ware. The trio of Howland, Kasongo, and Newman will elevate an already experienced group to the next level and beyond.
The NCAA Tournament is an easy prediction for this team. All signs point to that, and a very good seed as well, once they secure Malik Newman. There’s no where else he should want to go. The family ties, the opportunity, the team – it’s all in Starkville.
MSU basketball is about to take a giant leap forward in 2016.