It’s one thing for a freshman to start on a varsity basketball team, an accomplishment which is notable but not completely unique. What Julian Newman has accomplished is quite a bit more out of the ordinary: He’s starting on a varsity basketball squad while still in elementary school.
As first noted by MaxPreps, Orlando (Fla.) Downey Christian High’s basketball team features an 11-year-old, 4-foot-5 point guard who is only in the fifth grade. As alluded to above, his name is Julian Newman, and he can flat-out play.
If you're still on the fence about Newman (who is nicknamed "Handles") after seeing the highlight reel above, his stats can help sway opinion as well. The youngster currently leads the state of Florida in assists-per-game average with 11.5 per contest, a rate which is also the 19th best in the entire country on MaxPreps' statistical standings. He is average 13.5 points per game. On Wednesday he finished just two assists short of a double-double against Orlando (Fla.) Agape Christian School, totaling 14 points, eight assists and three steals in a 79-65 loss.
Downey Christian is coached by Newman's father, Jamie Newman, who decided that his son was ready for prime-time prep action even though he had yet to set foot in a middle school classroom. In Florida, the younger Newman’s age is irrelevant, as the only thing that determines a player’s eligibility is how many seasons he has already completed.
In Newman’s case, he had yet to compete in a single game before the 2012 season, making him a fully eligible varsity competitor, even though he is a minimum of four years younger than all of his competitors. And there are other competitive reasons why Newman is playing for the varsity high school squad, as well. According to his father, the younger Newman scored 91 points in just three quarters of a middle school victory earlier in the season, sparking the move up to the high school squad.
"Oh yeah, they announced his name and the whole deal," Crooms Academy head basketball coach Don Smith, an early season opponent of Downey Christian, told MaxPreps. "Downey Christian is a real small private school and they put a little bit of anybody out there. He's a little bitty thing, but he's very talented."
Talented indeed. As you can see above, the younger Newman’s skill set truly is at the varsity level, even if his body isn’t. It’s fairly remarkable that opponents haven’t begun trying to generate mismatches against Newman every time down the court, but so far they haven’t.
For the sub-5-foot guard and his coaches, the risk of defensive liability is outweighed by just how much good Newman can bring to the lineup. That in itself is a remarkable conclusion, given the fact that he’s just 11 years old.
"He has a tremendous skill level," Jamie Newman told MaxPreps. "He has moves that even NBA players don't have. He does stuff that hasn't been done before with the ball."