As many expected going into the 2015-16 season, the Malik Newman era is over after just one year. The way it ended, however, was perhaps unexpected:
Malik Newman has asked for his release from Mississippi State and intends to transfer, sources told @CBSSports.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 30, 2016
Newman was a top recruit in the 2015 class and was widely expected to be off to the NBA after one year in Starkville. However, after declaring for the NBA Draft, Newman apparently didn't like what he heard from NBA scouts and decided to return to college. Newman's father, former Mississippi State player Horatio Webster, indicated that perhaps Ben Howland was to blame for the decision:
"I think it was a trust issue. I don't think that Malik trusted Ben. Not saying he's a bad coach or anything to that nature. We'd be crazy to say that he's a terrible coach," Horatio Webster told the Clarion-Ledger. "But he wasn't the coach for Malik. I don't think Ben trusted Malik so I think the feeling was mutual. I don't think they trusted each other."
Newman's lone season at Mississippi State was, by all accounts, a major disappointment. While he averaged 11.3 ppg, he shot just 39 percent from the floor and his 1.4 Win Shares ranked seventh on the Mississippi State team. Ironically, for a player who was so heralded, Newman wasn't even the best freshman at Mississippi State -- that was Quinndary Weatherspoon, who outpaced Newman in every statistical category except for assists and also shot at a higher percentage.
So how does this affect Mississippi State going forward? Well, your assessment of that depends a lot on your assessment of Newman. If you think that 2015-16 represented the real Malik Newman, this move is probably for the best. The Bulldogs should be fine with a backcourt of Weatherspoon and I.J. Ready to go along with a strong freshman class.
However, if you think Newman still has some upside that people didn't see in 2015-16, then this is going to hurt Mississippi State. Then again, if Newman had played at all like people thought he would, he wouldn't be playing for the Bulldogs in 2016-17. Instead, he'd have stayed in the draft.
Mississippi State projects to be a frighteningly inexperienced team in 2016-17. As of right now, the Bulldogs project to have 12 players on scholarship and 11 of those will be underclassmen (including eight freshmen) with the senior in Ready being the only upperclassman. The freshman class is rumored to be very good, but losing a player with Newman's upside will still hurt quite a bit.