Miami Hurricanes Basketball: Newton Ready for Sweet 16 Battle Against Hometown Team

Mar 10, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Ja
Mar 10, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Miami Hurricanes guard Ja /

Two years ago Miami and Villanova were doing battle, but unlike the one that will take place tomorrow night at Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center, this duel was on the recruiting trail.

Looking for a point guard to play behind Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez, Coach Jim Larranaga and his coaching staff set their sights on a 6’2” guard from Neumann-Goretti HS in Philadelphia, Pa. by the name of Ja’Quan Newton. The high school senior was ranked in the top 50 by every recruiting site and seemed like the perfect fit for the Hurricanes.

While Newton did not have a favorite school by his own admission, many recruiting experts felt the top player in the state of Pennsylvania was destined to choose his hometown Villanova and continue the tradition of fantastic guard play in the “City of Brotherly Love.” The only problem was the Wildcats were not willing to wait and fortunately for Jim Larranaga and the Canes, he fell right into their laps.

“Ja’Quan Newton and Phil Booth were in the same recruiting class and Villanova was going after both of those guys to fill one of their guard positions.With Ja’Quan coming from the city of Philadelphia, he was very familiar with Villanova and they were familiar with him, but they said that it if it got into the July recruiting period and he hadn’t signed with them, they might get a commitment from somewhere else,” Larranaga said of Newton’s recruitment process.

“Ja’Quan wanted to wait until the July recruiting period and eventually Villanova got the commitment from Phil Booth and that led to us getting him and we are very, very happy about that.”

After picking Miami over the likes of Villanova, UCLA, Texas A&M and Minnesota, Newton made an instant impact in his freshman year and has had an even bigger impact on the team in his sophomore season. Despite losing out on the ACC Sixth Man of the Year award this year to Isaiah Hicks of North Carolina, Newton averaged 10.8 points per game and was called the best sixth man in the country earlier this year by legendary commentator Dick Vitale.

As it so often goes in sports, Newton’s present path will now collide with his past on the biggest of stages. He will have the chance to take on his hometown team that he grew up watching and that would not wait for his college decision with a spot in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight on the line.

“It’s going to be great. They have a great program, they have great coaches and they always have great players. You look at the history of guys that went there like Maalik Wayns, Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, I just always grew up watching Villanova basketball.” Ja’Quan Newton said.

“I’m just excited to play against my hometown team and thrilled to play against Coach Jay Wright and the rest of those guys on the team.”

With Villanova heavily recruiting the Philadelphia area, there are of course a few players that crossed paths with Newton over their years in basketball. Despite having faced many of these Wildcats before and with plenty of Philadelphia natives in attendance, Newton isn’t fazed by the environment.

“There’s no pressure playing against those guys or in this situation,” Miami’s sixth man said. “It’ll be just like a regular game, and it’ll be great to play against some of these guys that I know.”

With Newton facing some familiar foes on the biggest of stages, the Hurricanes will hope that Newton can not only deal with the situation, but excel in it. In the 21 games he has scored in double figures this year, Miami is 18-3. A pretty strong correlation if you ask me.

While it came with extenuating circumstances, the Miami Hurricanes won their first battle with the Villanova Wildcats two years ago with the capture of Ja’Quan Newton. Now with the Philadelphia, Pa. native on board, the Canes hope they win the second battle too.