DUNCANVILLE, Texas -- At the 25th annual Great American Shootout, one of the more talented backcourts the summer circuit has seen in a while took the floor and lived up to that lofty status. Playing for the Mo Williams Academy, the No. 1 player in 2015, Malik Newman, teamed with 2014's No. 3 player, Emmanuel Mudiay, and played high-level ball. Also making noise were a pair of 2014 sleepers in Mitchell Solomon and Micah Littlejohn.
Mudiay and Newman a big-time duo
During the summer of 2006, big-money guards Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon took the summer by storm when they joined forces to play for the Mean Streets Express. Newman and Mudiay have teamed up for the Mo Williams Academy, and watching them it was hard not to be reminded of that Rose-Gordon backcourt.
Newman is a 6-foot-3 combo guard, while Mudiay is a 6-foot-4 point guard, and they are both used to having to carry the offensive load and doing the bulk of ball-handling duties. Playing together, the duo took turns handling the ball and making plays happen for themselves and others.
Sometimes that doesn't work out. On Saturday, though, the ability to take turns seemed to bring out the best in Newman and Mudiay. Newman stroked 3-pointers, used his jab step to freeze defenders and finished loudly in transition and off the drive. After not shooting the ball well for much of the spring and summer, Mudiay looked to be as loose as he's been in some time. He hit pull-ups and a few 3s with confidence. Off the ball, Mudiay flew to the hoop for lob finishes and nearly blew the roof off the gym when he caught an alley-oop off the right baseline and finished with a reverse two-handed jam.
Newman said the opportunity to play with Mudiay was too good to pass up.
"It's just two great players who wanted to be together and start college-type playing early," Newman told Rivals.com. "We just came and joined forces with the Mo Williams team.
"It's great. It's fun. It takes a lot of pressure off me, and I take a lot of pressure off of him. We just play off of each other."
Newman is aware that he sits atop the rankings for the class of 2015. He doesn't dwell on the ranking, but he feels that it is deserved based on what he's done to this point.
"I try not to think about it, and I just go out and play my game and contribute any way I can," he said. "I feel like I put the work in all the time. All the hours I've been in the gym working when nobody's been watching, I feel I deserve it."
Newman was direct when asked about his recruiting.
"Nobody stands out," was his simple answer when asked to break down his recruitment, and he made it clear that he is still very open.
Each year, the GASO provides a stage for previously unrecognized players to take their recruitment to the next level. On Saturday, Solomon of Play with Purpose and Littlejohn of the Dallas Mustangs kept the streak alive as they made waves with the college coaches and looked like prospects who will need consideration for the 2014 Rivals150 after the summer.
From Oklahoma, Solomon is a nice-looking prospect at the four. He plays with toughness, he can shoot it with regularity out to the 3-point line, and he has a good feel for scoring around the hoop. He did all of that on Saturday, and he said his recruitment is taking off. Only a few weeks ago, he was hearing from just one or two Division I programs. Now he has offers from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oral Roberts, Texas Tech and Kent State. He mentioned Kansas State, Oklahoma State, SMU and Texas A&M as part of the rapidly growing group of programs initiating contact. From that list, Tech, KSU, ORU, OU, Tulsa and SMU had their head coaches watching him.
A 6-foot-6 wing with good athleticism and a pure jump shot, Littlejohn has been creating a regional buzz the past few weeks. The Mansfield (Texas) High product didn't disappoint, either. After a slow start, Littlejohn hit a 3 from the corner, got a bucket and foul off the dribble and added a few more 3s and an impressive drive for a dunk along the left baseline.
Only Northern Colorado has offered, and head coach B.J. Hill was keeping close track. Littlejohn said he has begun to hear from more programs and that Arkansas, Tulsa, San Francisco and Utah State told him that they would watch in Duncanville. A safe bet is that more schools will join the hunt soon and he won't be sitting on a lone offer for much longer.
Wrapping up Saturday in Duncanville
It was a big day for Team Texas Elite's T.J. Maston. The class of 2014 power forward from DeSoto (Texas) High was aggressive on offense. He buried 12-foot jumpers from each baseline, hit a foul line jumper and scored on several jump hooks and dump-off conversions. It was a good day for the three-star, who mentioned interest from Houston, SMU, Marquette, Miami, Texas A&M, Baylor, Tulsa, Kansas State, Temple and Long Beach State.
Standing 6-foot-8 or even 6-foot-9, three-star Omar Sherman understands how to put the ball in the hole. He's got a sweet stroke from the perimeter and a body built for low-post pounding. Sherman is figuring out how to blend the inside and faceup games. Teammate Erick Neal is as quick as they come. His twin brother actually plays in the backcourt with him and is a Texas Tech football commitment. Neal was hitting jumpers, and he is very quick off the bounce.