Can't say we didn't see this coming. Coming after Gary Parrish reported earlier this week, Malik Newman has committed to play basketball for coach Ben Howland and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Make no mistake about it, a recruit like Newman gets Howland off to a big start in his tenure as head coach. He's firmly placed himself back into the select crowd of elite recruiters. Don't forget, guys like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love played for him when he was at UCLA.
For a long time it seemed as if Newman was a foregone conclusion as a Wildcat commit but he was waiting to make that announcement until after he saw if Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, and Devin Booker were going to declare for the NBA draft. But he is a native Mississippian and his father attended Mississippi State. Staying home and being a hero in his state must have been too much to pass up.
But make no mistake about it, Newman likes to be THE man on the court. There were worries about whether or not he would buy into Cal's system of selfless play as Newman likes the ball in his hands as much as possible and he isn't shy about pulling the trigger whenever he feels. He will have ample opportunity to do so at Mississippi State where Howland doesn't have much returning. State was one of the worst teams in the SEC but Rick Ray was trying to bring them back to being competitive. The job is far from done in Starkville.
So where do the Wildcats go from here? John Calipari does have the luxury of returning Tyler Ulis as his starting point guard and he has Isiah Briscoe, the top ranked point guard in the 2015 class, coming in as well. Dominique Hawkins and Charles Matthews are both shooting guards that should earn an ample amount of minutes this season.
But Newman's true strength is getting buckets and perimeter shooting, something that Kentucky is lacking right now. There are multiple reports that Cal will sign four star sophomore JUCO transfer Mychal Mulder this weekend when he visits Kentucky. He is a three point specialist and averaged 16.1 points per game for Vincennes last season.
Also, look out for 2016 guard Jamal Murray to now seriously consider reclassifying to the 2015 class. Calipari is recruiting him now and will no doubt turn up the heat.
Regardless of the decision, this is good for SEC basketball. The league has been dogged for years for it's lack of talent and competitiveness, but with the addition of coaches like Howland, Bruce Pearl, Rick Barnes, and Avery Johnson, expect the SEC to step it up in both categories.