RALEIGH, N.C. – Downey Christian’s (Orlando) Julian Newman is a 5-foot-4, 135-pound point guard with shooting range that would make Stephen Curry do a double take and the kind of hype that marketing and PR companies drool over.
Newman, a sophomore, has started varsity since the fifth grade and is the youngest player ever to eclipse 3,000 career points. That kind of clout has helped him amass more than 350 million views on YouTube and made him an internet sensation.
But in Wednesday’s opening round game at the John Wall Family Foundation Holiday Invitational, Newman dealt with the downside of overexposure, posting just 12 points on 2 of 10 from the field and seven turnovers in a 71-51 loss to Broughton (Raleigh, N.C.).
“I just couldn’t get it going today,” Newman said. “I’m not worried about it, I’ll just learn and move on. Everyone has a bad game.”
Especially when it’s your first game back after missing five straight with a strained lumbar in your back.
“I don’t make excuses,” Newman said. “I just need to protect the ball more and shoot the ball better. I’ll be OK.”
Shaking off the proverbial rust isn’t a hard sell for a guy averaging 32 points per game this season; still, that didn’t stop the capacity crowd from giving Newman a hard time as he struggled throughout the game.
From “overrated’ chants to thunderous applause when he missed shots, fans kept the reception for Newman consistently chilly all afternoon.
“That stuff doesn’t bother me,” Newman said. “I don’t feel like I have to please anyone when I’m out there playing. Maybe the fans didn’t think highly of me in that game, but real basketball fans know what I can do. I just focus on getting better. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that’s all that matters.”
Six years ago, Damon Harge Jr. started the trend of the young, small, quick guard who can fill it up from anywhere on the court and rack up millions of YouTube views in the process.
Harge was considered to be the No. 1 player in the 2018 class at that time.
Today he’s running the point at Oak Ridge (Orlando) with a handful of Division I offers.
“Damon was one of the first inspirations for Julian,” said Downey Christian coach and Julian’s father Jamie Newman. “Definitely one of the guys he looked up to.”
Still, by and large, early overexposure tends to go the Demetrius Walker route.
Walker’s name has become the universal example of how not to handle early overexposure.
Like Harge, Walker was dubbed the top 12-year-old in the country and donned the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 14. He was the subject of the book “Play Their Hearts Out” and was touted by some to be the next LeBron James.
Walker never lived up to the unfair hype.
Today, King James’ onetime heir apparent is back at his old high school coaching JV basketball, sharing his story with younger players.
Jamie is aware of all of the cautionary tales, but doesn’t fear the pitfall that can accompany getting too much too soon.
“These kids work so hard and it’s what they produce as a result of that hard work that gets them all of the accolades and attention,” Jamie said. “As long as there’s hard work tied to it, I’m OK with it.”
It certainly seems to be working thus far with interest from schools like Central Florida, Ohio State, Miami and Dayton.
“He’s on the right track,” Jamie said. “People want him to go out and score 30 and 40 points every night, but that’s not realistic. He had 12 today. That’s somebody’s good game. We play in the toughest conference in the country so today was a down team compared to what he’s used to seeing. We’re always focused on what’s next.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY