Friday, January 20, 2017

Now A Freshman, Newman Proves He Is As Advertised

Early born success doesn’t occur so simply in today’s hothouse, hyper-competitive prep basketball landscape.
Especially not in Orlando, where basketball is quickly shaping into the city’s favorite pastime.

With a slew of powerhouse high school/prep school basketball programs in the area and surrounding area, hoops has become the uppermost winter attraction.

While some may show promise as inexperienced freshman and sophomores, the player development process as well as the road to impactful minutes is often a process. 

For Downey Christian’s Julian Newman, this is clearly not the case.

Now on the periphery of 2,500 career points, the ahead-of-his time point guard has played varsity since fifth grade.
A relentless gym rat with an unprecedented motor, Newman’s story is as unique as it is unheard of.
Once a pocket-sized guard scoring at will over defenders nearly three feet taller than him, Newman’s story garnered national publicity.

Newman became a pioneer for those of the advanced skill-set. His story resonated with those who wanted to sidestep age-appropriate levels and play against bigger, stronger opponents.

As a 4-foot-5 and 70-pound fifth grader, Newman was shockingly fit for the physical challenges of playing Varsity.
Possessing rarified quickness and ability to blow by defenders and create space, Newman did the unheard of.

 Schools throughout the country have rules prohibiting middle schoolers play varsity minutes. In a lot of cases, a maneuver of this type would be frowned upon. 

“Our main thing was that we needed another ball handler and we figured we would give it a try and throw him into varsity minutes,” said Jamie Newman, Julian's father and head coach at Downey Christian.
 “He didn’t start the first few games. People persuaded me not to do it at first, but then everyone was like 'wait a minute, he’s actually producing.' Suddenly it was like, he's scoring, he’s getting by people, this is actually working."

Newman added, “Julian’s always played four to five to six years up in age, and I allowed that to happen. What you see now is a result of him rarely playing age appropriate. He’s progressing now by playing against Division-I guards every night.”  

Arduous workouts prepared him for the rigors of being an undersized guard among towering upperclassmen thirsting to expose him.

Worldwide eminence, which many depicted as too much too soon, rendered Newman a household name even before his freshman season.

A collection of Youtube videos, a New York Times feature article and his status on ranking services have put him under a microscope.

“The pressure and the attention from the publicity I got early on really never bothers me,” said the 5-foot-6, 130-pound Newman, who is on target to score 1,000 points this season alone and will likely eclipse the 2,500-point milestone this year.

“It helps me go out there and prove people wrong if I have to. And there’s nothing I like more than proving people wrong, so it keeps me motivated.”

There's been commotion of a too-early hype machine on Newman. There's also been talk of Downey playing a lack of competition, and Newman having a green light to feast on meager competition. 

 Newman has done his work to defy doubters, putting up numbers in the talent-laced SIAA.

The conference features Division-I bound players all across the roster with teams such as (defending champion) West Oaks, Oldsmar Christian, The Rock, Potter’s House, Conrad Academy, DME, Arlington Country Day.

This assortment of high-level prep programs traditionally churn out Division-I talent on the high school and post-graduate level.

“There’s isn't a competition level in the country that’s better the SIAA,” Julian Newman opined. 

“The guards are strong and talented, they can shoot it. Playing against Division-I guys every night, it’s only getting me better.”

According to his father, Downey Christian’s transition from a softer schedule to the SIAA has evoked a monstrous new work ethic in Newman.

“He’s just a tremendously hard worker. I know everyone considers themselves a hard worker, but this kid is making 500-700 shots a day, doing 1200 pushups a day, 500-600 situps a day without fail. He hit the weights 5-7 days a week leading up to the season. You can see it in his game now, you just can’t push him around. Now he’s taking the bumps, he’s finishing through contact.”

Newman scored his 1,000th point as a seventh grader. This season, Downey has upgraded its roster while Newman has remained the facilitator and the offensive focal point. 

The addition of Zavien Smith, a left-handed sharpshooter, has taken some of the scoring weight off Newman's shoulders. 

“I liken it to the Jameer Nelson-Delonte West tandem at St. Joe’s (in 2004),” Newman said.

 “You’ve got Julian whose more of a scorer, like Jammer was, and Zavian whose a lefty and a shooter like Delonte. They just feed off each other. He’s catching double teams now. As soon as he catches the ball, they throw two at him.”

Coach Newman saw no foul in showcasing his son early on, feeding a potential hype machine which could be overwhelming for a young kid.

“He’s playing college level guys and Division-I players everyday,” he explained.

“You can’t say he’s beating up on lesser competition because we’re in the SIAA. So, when he plays in showcases or tournaments against kids his own age, there could be some games where he might score 50 points. That’s because of the competition he plays against. His learning ability and his evolution have come along.”