Through six teams and 12 seasons in the NBA, Mo Williams has seen a lot of basketball players.
When he looks at Callaway High star Malik Newman, from Williams’ hometown of Jackson, Miss., he can only draw one comparison.
“We call him ‘Young Kobe,’ ” Williams said. “The only person I’ve actually seen like that is Kobe Bryant. He (Newman) is just always working and he wants to get better. He has that in him.
“But one thing that you can’t teach is that drive, that will to be the best. You don’t get tired. You have to get him out of the gym at times, tell him to rest, just rest. He doesn’t want to rest until he gets to that goal.”
That goal, for now, is leading Callaway to a fourth consecutive Mississippi Class 5A state title and make the Chargers one of only three boys basketball programs in state history with seven titles. Callaway plays Ridgeland on Friday after advancing with an 83-73 victory against Laurel on Tuesday night.
The relationship between Newman and Williams runs deep. Newman’s father Horatio Webster is a longtime friend of Williams.
“His dad (and I) are real close,” Williams, now with the Charlotte Hornets, said before a recent game at Chicago’s United Center against the Bulls. “His dad played at Mississippi State. He was in college when I was making my college decision and he almost got me to go there.”
Williams would attend Alabama before being drafted by the Utah Jazz in the second round in 2003.
Webster was a two-time all SEC selection who averaged 16.6 points while at Mississippi State (1996-98). He also played played professional basketball in Argentina and Canada.
As Newman was growing up, Williams said he stepped in with support and advice as his own career picked up steam.
“(Now) we talk all the time,” said Williams, often referred to as Newman’s uncle. “He’s a great kid. Keeping him focused and on the goal is not hard. It’s something that he wants to do anyway. So it’s mainly just making sure he’s healthy, making sure he’s getting the proper training and just staying ready.”
While Williams and Newman aren’t blood relatives, they’re as close as any family members could be.
“We’ve got a great relationship and he gives me advice throughout the season about what I need to do to be better on and off the court,” Newman said. “He’s a big help and somebody that I know I can depend on.”
On the most productive night of Williams’ career, he shared the stage with Newman.
“Getting buckets like @iammaliknewman 2nite,” Williams tweeted after he scored a career-high 52 points for the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Indiana Pacers in mid-January.
The conversations between Williams and Newman aren’t limited to just basketball.
“We talk about everything,” Williams said. “Just basic conversation about life, what to expect, things that I’ve been through, things that he’s going to see in the future.
“One thing about it is that he has a great mind and I always tell him to (feel) fortunate.”
Williams has played for six different teams while averaging 13.3 points and five assists in his career.
He’s been with two teams this year, playing 41 games with the Timberwolves before a Feb. 11 trade that also brought shooting guard Troy Daniels to Charlotte in exchange for guard Gary Neal and a 2019 second-round draft pick.
Williams was nothing short of sensational in his time with Charlotte, in the thick of a chase for a final Eastern Conference playoff berth. He was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday for leading the Hornets to a 4-0 mark in the week, averaging 19.5 points per game and 10.8 assists.
Newman is still pondering a college destination and other top tier coaches have also made Callaway games a must-attend event.
“Obviously he’s got some schools that he likes — Kentucky, LSU, NC State, to name a few — but he’s still open,” Williams said.
But wherever he goes, Newman seems destined to have an immediate impact.
“He’s going to go somewhere and be capable of scoring a lot of points as a freshman,” said Eric Bossi, national analyst for Rivals.com, which who ranks Newman as No. 3 overall nationally. “He’s mentally ready for the college game and physically ready. … He has a chance to come in and play major minutes wherever he goes.”
Despite accolades, Newman said there’s still plenty to learn.
“He (Williams) talks to me about patience on the court, how I can’t play the game 100 miles per hour the whole time, and just knowing when to pick spots and ways to make my teammates better,” Newman said.
There’s little doubt that an NBA career lies in Newman’s future.
“Absolutely,” Williams said. “It won’t be long. If God blesses him and he stays healthy, the sky’s the limit for him.”
But Williams said he’s still the boss when it comes to a one-on-one showdown.
“I win,” Williams said. “Because I’m better than him. … He’ll never beat me one-on-one.”
Contributing: Jason Jordan, USA TODAY High School Sports