Going into the 2015--16 season, MALIK NEWMAN was considered a likely one-and-done. Ranked as the country's No. 10 player by ESPN, he was headed to Mississippi State, where he was expected to be the primary offensive option in coach Ben Howland's defense-first system. Instead Newman suffered from turf toe, had a lackluster year (11.3 points, 2.8 rebounds), entered and eventually withdrew his name from the NBA draft, and announced he was transferring to Kansas. He sat out 2016--17 and studied one of the country's best guard duos, DEVONTE' GRAHAM and Frank Mason III. Although last season there were concerns that Newman might bolt for the NBA, he is back to help anchor the Jayhawks' backcourt alongside Graham.
On KU's summer trip to Italy, Newman averaged 18.5 points over four games, including 32 in the finale against a squad of Italian all-stars, and he's on the watch list for the Jerry West award, given to the nation's top shooting guard. At Big 12 media day, Self remarked that Newman had still not regained the "swagger" he had as a high school senior, but the coach is expecting that Newman will take a big step forward once the season officially begins.
Self's system has always been guard-friendly, and Newman and Graham are the perfect complementary pieces to ensure that the Jayhawks will go on to win a 14th straight Big 12 title.
PROJECTED TEAM STATS
BIG 12 RECORD
With 2017--18 projections for the top six scorers
COACH BILL SELF (15TH SEASON)
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
Devonte' Graham [Starter] 6'2" Sr.
Malik Newman [Starter] 6'3" Soph.
Billy Preston 6'10" Fr.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk [Starter] 6'8" Sr.
Udoka Azubuike [Starter] 7'0" Soph.
Lagerald Vick 6'5" Jr.
Before breaking his left wrist last December, UDOKA AZUBUIKE was averaging 5.0 points and 4.4 rebounds. Now that the 280-pound sophomore is back to full strength, the Jayhawks will count on him to both rattle the rim with thunderous dunks and to protect it.