Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
If Ja’Quan Newton’s third PIAA state title was the final act of his stellar high school career, then his performance at the Mary Kline Classic could have been considered the encore.
Though Newton wasn’t able to get his Team Perseverance to come out victorious in the Seniors game against the Seton Hall-powered Team Courage, the Neumann-Goretti senior did win team MVP honors with a 21-point performance.
The 6-foot-3 point guard did what he does best even playing against some of the other top guards in the country–getting into the lane, hanging in the air just long enough to draw contact before somehow getting the ball through the hoop.
“This is probably my last game [before Miami], so I just wanted to come out here and put on a show for the fans,” he said, “and that’s what I did.”
Newton departs for Coral Gables on June 28, joining a Hurricanes squad coming off a 17-16 season in Jim Larranaga’s third since coming over from George Mason. They’re graduating five seniors, including their two leading scorers in Rion Brown (15.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Garrius Adams (10.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg); all in all they’ll lose half their scoring from the team.
And while Newton’s best asset is indeed his ability to get the ball through the bucket–the’s the all-time leading scorer in Catholic League history, with 1,972 points–it’s his play on the other end of the court the Miami coaches are looking forward to.
“I talk to them almost every day, just getting ready to go down there. [Larranaga] talks about what the schedule’s going to be like when I get down there, my dates, everything like that,” Newton said. “He likes my defensive abilities, so he was on me about that, how good I play defense and [how] that really can help.”
Down in Miami, Newton will reunite with Davon Reed, a Princeton Day (N.J.) and Team Final AAU alum. Though Reed, a rising sophomore, is a year older than Newton, they’re plenty familiar with each other due to Newton’s playing up with the older kids during the 2012 summer season.
“We were close from Team Final, because we both played AAU together and I played up some tournaments so I was with him half the time, him and [Arizona sophomore] Rondae [Hollis-Jefferson],” Newton said. “So we’ve got a good relationship.”
Reed, a 6-6 guard, had a successful freshman season, averaging 6.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in just over 20 minutes per game, though his overall shooting (34.3 percent) certainly needs to improve.
Team Final’s director, Rob Brown, thinks Newton’s arrival will benefit Reed’s game, as well.
“Him and Davon together in Miami will be very good because it gets Davon off the ball, he played on the ball a lot this year,” Brown said. “It’s better for [Reed] to be off the ball and scoring the ball and Ja’Quan will be able to find him. It’s a good tandem, definitely a good tandem in the ACC.”
Newton’s departure leaves a massive hole in Neumann-Goretti’s lineup as the Saints come off their sixth consecutive Catholic League title, but Carl Arrigale has replaced plenty of Division I players in his time there.
The next group of scholarship-bound guards seems to be in place. Senior point guard Lamarr Kimble already has approaching a dozen offers from schools like Massachusetts, Saint Joseph’s, Drexel and more. It’ll be the impact that juniors Zane Martin and Vaughn Covington as well as sophomore Quade Green–all three of whom are on Division I radars–have that will determine if Arrigale’s team is capable of pulling off the seventh in a row.
Their departing leader has talked to those who will follow him about the mindset they need to continue the program’s success.
“Just work hard, and anything is possible, you never know what can happen,” he said. “Coming in as a freshman, I never knew I was going to achieve all the things I did, so you’ve got to just keep working and keep putting in the work and keep working hard.”
Newton, a South Philly native, won’t have to go his whole freshman year without playing in his hometown. Miami has a road game scheduled against La Salle–at the Palestra, where Newton led the Saints to four consecutive Catholic League championships, of all places.
And as he walked out of the Mary Kline Classic, getting ready to begin the next chapter of his basketball story, Newton already was excited about playing back in his hometown, in his favorite gym.
“That’s my building.”