Powell basketball star drawing national attention at age 13

Powell Middle School basketball phenom Malik Newman, 13, leans upon his main support groups, his father, former MSU forward and pro Horatio Webster, left and Powell basketball Coach Ivory Gray, (Photo by: Ernest McBride)

By Earnest McBride

Jackson Advocate Contributing Editor

Malik Newman is drawing the attention of the top scouts and rating agencies from all across the country. There’s a lot of talk about what he might do among the pros. Top college programs are already holding a place for him on their teams and are enthralled over the idea of signing him up.

But first things first: Although ranked number 3 by one agency among basketball phenoms in the country, Malik has to finish up his last year at Powell Middle School in Jackson before moving on to the high school that’s within his district, which is Callaway.

Being listed by all the rating services as one of the nation’s top prospects of the (High School) Class of 2015, Malik appreciates the attention, but he is listening to the counsel of his father, former professional player and Mississippi State University forward Horatio Webster (1996-1998). Although Webster is a stickler for discipline and attention to the task at hand, he takes a more down-to-Earth approach when it comes to his son’s budding career.

“Just have fun,” Webster says he tells his son after guiding him through strenuous workouts and watching the results on the basketball court at game time. “You’ve got a whole life to live. So have fun while you’re living it.”

Malik has developed a work ethic of his own, based mostly on the lessons he has learned from his father.

“He has told me that you get out of basketball what you put into it I work out a lot and I pay close attention to my coach and my dad and try to improve on any faults they might point out. At first, I thought it was a little hard to keep going through a lot of the same practices and workouts. But now I don’t mind it because I know that it will just make me stronger and improve my game. I enjoy all the workouts now, almost as much as I do playing in a game.”

Averaging 26 points per game, Malik gets a very high rating from all the major agencies that count. Hoops Scoop rated him as number 5 in their October report; NY2LA ranks him as number 4; and the John Lucas camp also ranks him among the top 5 players of his class.

Given his work ethic and the firm guiding hand of his father, Malik could very easily rise to the top of the rankings by the time he gets through his senior year of high school.

Powell Middle School coach Ivory Gray is also one of the major influences in the life and development of Malik so far. He has a very close relationship with Malik’s father and Coach Carter and is also Malik’s counselor, mentor and teacher.

In early August, Malik was invited to play in the annual Wayne Brent Cancer Research Basketball game in Jackson. The selected players are usually outstanding high school players from throughout the city.

Malik was the exception. Barely into his last year at Powell Middle School on the day of the game, he said he was honored to play on behalf of his grandmother, who is living in Louisiana with a case of life-threatening cancer.

Malik’s move into the national spotlight started developing as he joined the Mississippi Basketball Association and showed signs of exceptional ability at age 11 under the watchful eyes of Coach Carter, the CEO and co-founder of the MBA.

“He is a truly gifted player,” Carter said during an interview last Friday at Powell Middle School, where he also works as a special substitute teacher. “He’s ranked as number 3 among the players from his grade and age group from all across the nation. I believe he has a great future in high school and college and I’ve also learned that some professional team representatives have also been observing him.”

There is no chance that Malik will be wooed into the pro ranks anytime soon, nevertheless. He has to get through at least one year of college before he can be approached by the NBA franchises. His father says that he wants his son to grow to his full potential and sign with a top quality college, without ruling out his alma mater Mississippi State as a prospect.

Horatio Webster is no dreamer seeking to one day bask in the reflected glory of his son Malik, however. Webster was one of the centerpieces of MSU’s teams of 1996-98 and was compared favorably with the recently departed Dontae Jones and Erick Dampier, who put MSU in line for national championship contention in 1995 and 1996, going as far as the Sweet 16 before moving on to the NBA. Webster subsequently played pro ball with teams in Argentina, Canada and the WBA in the U.S. He is now retired from the sport and lives in Jackson.

His son, Malik, has fallen heir to this wealth of experience and careful guidance along life’s pathways, hopefully to soar one day as high as anyone else in the game of basketball has.