From the day Malik Newman first rang a cowbell and donned a Mississippi State cap announcing his intentions to play in Starkville, Bulldog fans have expected the 2015-16 season to be his one and only year to play college basketball.
That year wasn't exactly what Newman and MSU fans expected as injuries took their toll and limited the former five-star's production.
Despite the ups and downs of his freshman year, Newman is staying on his expected path as he announced Tuesday his intentions to declare for the June 23 NBA Draft.
"We think that we have a really good chance of making my dreams come true," Newman said. "With the development that coach (Ben) Howland has helped me throughout the season as a point guard I think it'll really help me."
With new NCAA rules in effect, Newman is allowed to declare for the draft and participate in workouts while not losing eligibility if he withdraws his name by June. Newman has not hired an agent, keeping a return to college still on the table.
The former Callaway standout, who led his team to four-straight state championships, finished second in MSU history for 3-pointers by a freshman with 61. He also scored 329 points, which was 10th among freshmen in school history.
In 29 games, Newman averaged 11.3 points per game which was fourth on the Bulldog roster. He also pulled down 2.8 rebounds. He had 63 assists and 54 turnovers starting in 22 ball games.
His seven 3-pointers against Ole Miss were second-most in a single game and he tallied a career-high 25 points against the in-state rival.
Newman started the year on the mend of a turf toe injury and his ailments carried over through the season with lingering cramps hindering his progression.
Since the season ended, however, Newman is as healthy as he has been and feels that's going to help his chances when he performs for NBA teams. In a similar fashion, Newman is in great shape academically allowing him the opportunity to focus solely on improving his draft stock.
"I think it's better for him to leave and prepare for the draft. That means working out twice a day," Howland said. "At this point, we're working our players out two times a week. (Newman) needs four hours a day. I'm excited for him because I think this is going to be a great challenge for him."
Most early mock drafts had Newman from early to mid-first round in the draft but he's since fallen off of several draft boards or out of the first round. Newman mentioned on two occasions Tuesday that the first round was the goal.
With the decision by Newman and his father, Horatio Webster, to go through the process without hiring an agent, the option is still on the table to return for another year. He's going to give it his best shot first, though.
"I think with my body being healthy and me being 100 percent, I'll be a totally different player," Newman said. "If (I get picked) second round, I'm pretty sure I'll be back."
Newman has until May 25 to pull his name out of the NBA Draft. The combine goes from May 11-15 in Chicago.
Newman is the only underclassman on MSU's team expected to test the professional waters. Howland said Tuesday that he talked with fellow freshman Quinndary Weatherspoon, who is likely to return for his sophomore year.