Image from Twitter - @J_Newton20
In June 2012, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was selected second overall by the Charlotte Bobcats, Two picks later, Dion Waiters was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their connection, other than being exceptionally talented, is they both starred for Team Final, the Philadelphia-based Elite Youth Basketball League squad that has developed a knack for producing tough, talented guards.
Enter Ja’Quan Newton, a 6-foot-3, 185 pound point guard hailing from Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School in south Philadelphia.
Coming off a strong varsity season, the junior wrapped up an impressive EYBL regular season, earning Team Final (11-7) a Peach Jam berth. Through the 18 game run, Newton averaged 13.7 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game and 4.5 assists per game.
Sharing the same toughness and passion for the game, many consider Newton to be the next guard to follow the lineage of his Team Final predecessors.
“It’s very good to follow in the footsteps of great players. NBA players like Dion Waiters, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, guys like Rakeem Christmas. We got great players like that so I just want to be the next great player out of the program.”
Though he enjoyed consistent production throughout the EYBL season, Newton was not shy when asked the differences between playing in high school and the Nike EYBL.
“The biggest adjustment is playing against better competition. When you come on the circuit, its the best players from every city, every state. So you’re playing against better competition," he said. It’s not like in high school, "where you can get away with playing set defense and running certain plays. The athleticism is the difference. And the season is so short, every single game counts.”
Blessed with a quick first step and the ability to absorb contact in the lane, Newton uses his size to his advantage when attacking the basket. He appears stronger than almost every guard he matches up against and is a gifted passer in traffic. He is utlizing talented wings Mikal Bridges and Malachi Richardson to the best of his abilities.
Newton sees his game much more fundamentally.
“Getting into the lane. Getting other people involved. You know, just that," he said.
Colleges have taken notice of Newton, with programs like Georgetown, Syracuse, Minnesota and Villanova showing interest. Despite the added attention, Newton says no school has the lead for his services. He plans to discuss his options with his family when the EYBL season wraps up in July.
However, he was adamant about a certain deciding factor that will play a big part in his decision.
“I want to go somewhere where I’m gonna play right away. You know, I even hate coming out of the game so I can’t see myself just sitting on the bench, just watching," he said. "So I gotta go somewhere I’m gonna play. Or at least come off the bench as a freshmen and play the majority of the time and contribute to the team.”
If the past successes of Team Final guards are any indication, Mr. Newton won't be sitting anywhere