As part of this post, Jeff Newberry spent some time on the phone with Mark recording an interview that will also air on Mark's campus radio show "Mark My Words." You can listen to that interview here or on iTunes. If you already subscribe to our CRFF podcasts, you can simply refresh your feed in RSS or iTunes.
We all know that Marcus Smart is going to be impossible for anybody to replace, but Oklahoma State may have found the best formula for replicating what Smart has brought to the program: having two talented point guards that can shift between both guard spots to help provide the offense with the diversity it will need when Smart, Markel Brown and possibly LeBryan Nash depart from Stillwater at the end of this season.
In addition to Class of 2013 commit Stevie Clark, Travis Ford has landed another star recruit in New Mexico Junior College point guard Jeff Newberry. Widely regarded as the top JuCo point guard in the country, Newberry is the newest name on a growing list of top tier talents that Ford has brought to Stillwater.
Newberry's path to Oklahoma State wasn't a conventional one, though. In fact, Gallagher-Iba Arena wouldn't have even been his home turf had he committed to OSU when he was a junior in high school. Back then, Newberry was projected to be drafted in the first 10 rounds of the MLB First-Year Player Draft. But as he reached his senior year, he realized that his passion lied with basketball, and decided to transfer to Mack Prep in North Carolina to focus on the hardwood.
After his year at Mack Prep, Newberry walked on at Ole Miss and red-shirted. Though he didn't play in a game for the Rebels, simply being around a D-1 program was a wake-up call for him, a humbling experience of sorts. Once he realized he had some work to do before he could see major playing time at a D-1 school, Newberry chose to go the junior college route in order to hone his craft.
Suffice to say, Newberry's work has paid off, and he's relieved to have finally found his home.
"It feels really good," Newberry said. "To finally get this process over with and to finally say that I'm going somewhere that I want to be, it feels really good."
Newberry is an athletic point guard that can razzle with his scoring ability and dazzle with his dimes. He was predominately a shooting guard prior to his time at Ole Miss, but he made the transition to point guard in Oxford and has evolved into a dual threat weapon that can play on and off the ball. He says that the most common feedback that he gets about his game is that he brings people out of their seats, so he should fit right in Lob Stilly.
Speaking of fitting in, Newberry said that the Oklahoma State campus reminded him of the University of Georgia campus, where he spent a lot of time growing up, and he said that the coaching staff did a tremendous job of making him feel welcome right away.
"Coach Ford and Coach Ferguson are great coaches, and they improve the kids (that play there)," Newberry said. "I talked to a lot of the players, and a lot of the players have the utmost respect for all of the coaches, and you don't find that on a lot of teams."
In addition to feeling comfortable in Stillwater, Newberry said that a big reason he chose Oklahoma State is the guy who is leaving some huge shoes behind for him to fill.
"Just the situation that I was coming into," Newberry said about what attracted him to OSU. "You got a guy like Marcus, he's a great point guard. With me coming in and possibly taking his place, I just want to challenge myself to come into a program like that. I'm confident in my talent to know that I could try to come in and do what he does. He sets the tone as point guard for Oklahoma State and I just want to come in and continue that for Coach Ford."
Newberry sees what Smart has done at Oklahoma State as a blueprint for himself, and he hopes to use Oklahoma State as a stepping stone to the NBA just like Marcus has.
"It motivates me to see that he's doing that in that program and how they've developed him," Newberry said. "I just want to come in right behind him and be able to do the same thing and to have the opportunity to do that."
Smart is an unbelievable talent and a tireless worker, and those types of kids don't come around very often. That said, the Pokes may have landed yet another player that isn't easily satisfied, and Newberry seems like the kind of person that can help carry out the tone Smart has set going forward.
"I'm priding myself on [building upon what the current team has established] big," Newberry said. "Because I feel like I come if I don't come in there and give what they gave or more, I'm just letting that whole community down. I'm working my tail off to try to come in and do what they did, because they are leaving a great legacy."