It's a bit early to start proclaiming anyone as the top hoops prospect in the Class of 2015, but suffice to say, a handful of players have already impressed so thoroughly at the middle school and junior AAU level that they've begun to get the hype usually associated with future NBA stars.
Perhaps the most prominent among those likely future stars is 14-year-old Jamar Ergas, the latest, greatest Canadian hope who we've profiled here at Prep Rally for his overwhelming athleticism in general and his recent pastiche of impressive dunks, pulling off both a 360 slam and "LeBron Dunk" in premier competitions.
Still, a number of talent evaluators don't think Ergas, or fellow uber-hyped eighth-grader Horace Spencer of Pennsylvania, is even the best eighth-grader in North America. Instead, that honor may fall to a hidden gem from inner-city Jackson, Miss.
That player is Malik Newman, a young prospect who has exploded onto the national recruiting scene with almost as much zest as he uses when attacking the basket. The 14-year-old has been named the top prospect in the Class of 2015 by multiple hoops magazines, outshone the best high school prospects in Jackson as a seventh-grader and has at least one very significant former NCAA assistant calling him "the most polished scorer" to come enter high school basketball in nearly a decade. In fact, that former assistant has compared Newman favorably to current NBA star Tyreke Evans, while others have called him the likely heir apparent to Duke-bound guard Austin Rivers in prep dominance.
"Malik Newman is as smooth a prospect and polished a scorer I've ever seen coming into high school," former Louisville director of basketball operations Brian Merritt, who worked under Rick Pitino, told ScoutsFocus. "And I've seen all of them in the last eight years."
"He can shoot the lights out, he's a terrific athlete, he's a scoring machine, and then he can pass off as a point guard," controversial prep hoops talent evaluator Clark Francis told ScoutsFocus.
If you need more convincing after Francis' take and the rather impressive video showcase you see above, just ask the man who coached both Monta Ellis and Mo Williams through their high-rising Mississippi AAU careers.
"Right now, Malik as an eighth-grader is better than Monta Ellis and Mo Williams when they were the same age," MBA Hoops Elite coach Omhar Carter told ScoutsFocus. "Malik definitely has offers from most major D1 schools. North Carolina, NC State, Georgetown and DePaul have all said whenever he is ready, he could commit on the spot."
In fact, DePaul went a step further, saying that if Newman were on campus now, he would be the Blue Demons' starting point guard in the 2011-12 season. At age 14.
Naturally, that DePaul claim may come with a certain measure of hyperbole, but it may prove to be well founded eventually. Newman comes from NCAA and pro hoops stock -- his father, Horatio Webster, starred at Mississippi State, averaging nearly 17 points per game across the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons, later playing professionally in Argentina, Venezuela and the minor leagues in the U.S. and Canada. Not surprisingly, there's little question that the ceiling for Webster's son is considered much higher than the far-flung highlights of South American basketball.
Whether Newman continues to develop at such a rapid rate, all while dealing with the hype tornado that will almost certainly follow his (anticipated) Jackson (Miss.) Callaway High career, remains to be seen. For now, it's just worth noting that we shouldn't be surprised if the best freshman guard in the 2015-16 collegiate basketball season hails from Jackson, Miss.