Sunday, January 21, 2018
Sports

Miami recruits 9-year-old girls hoops phenom Jaden Newman

Her favorite TV shows are on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. She's seven years from getting her driver's license, and she still has a 10 o'clock bedtime.

But Jaden Newman, a 9-year-old basketball phenom, already has something athletes twice her age dream of: recruiting interest from the University of Miami.

Jaden and her family made an unofficial visit to the UM campus this month after the Hurricanes began recruiting the 4-foot-7 point guard who, despite her age and small stature, is already a two-year varsity player at Orlando's Downey Christian (the school's website says it caps enrollment at 274).

Jaden's father, Jamie, said he was surprised when Miami assistant coach Darrick Gibbs, who helps coordinate recruiting, reached out to his family about the fourth-grader. Jamie hopes the experience serves as a life lesson for his precocious daughter, who's been playing basketball since she was a toddler.

"I want her to take it as what it is, an experience. Learn from this and see what hard work can do for you," Jamie said. "If you become a basketball player, if you become a dentist, whatever you do in life, if you work hard, you'll be rewarded. The more you put in it, the more you get out of it."

Her father says Jaden has been playing basketball alongside older boys since she was 3. That helped her develop into one of the strongest ball handlers on her high school team.

One of the boys she has played with is her brother, 12-year-old Julian, who has made a name for himself as a basketball prodigy as well. He has been playing on Downey Christian's varsity team since his elementary school days, too, and has earned attention from the likes of the New York Times, ESPN and People magazine. The family was profiled by Michael Kruse for the Tampa Bay Times in March.

Jamie Newman says Miami contacted him about Jaden after seeing some of her highlight tapes online. Though some might question a university recruiting someone that young, several high school and youth coaches see Miami's efforts as a plus. Not only could it benefit UM if Jaden plays there and turns out to be the player it hopes she will be, but they say it's a boost for girls and women's basketball in general.

"I know (Miami's) staff really well," said Nova High coach Jason Hively, who has worked with travel and high school players for 14 years. "They're a national program in the ACC, one of the top conferences in the country for women's hoops. They need to be recruiting now and looking ahead if they want to stay on top of the game.

"They could have done it as a nice gesture for the young lady. It might help her confidence. There are people in the women's game like (Miami coach) Katie Meier and Coach Gibbs that want to try and promote women's basketball. This is a great way to promote it and say, 'We're watching the kids. We're doing our jobs.' I think it's great."

Said Dillard High coach Marcia Pinder, a Hall of Fame coach who has led the Panthers to seven state championships, "I'm anxious to see her play. I respect Miami, and I know that she must be a great player if Miami is going after her. … Miami's coaches are very, very good. "

But the Hurricanes, who have made four straight postseason appearances, including a first-round loss in this year's WNIT, may have their work cut out for them. Her father says Jaden's favorite player is former Connecticut star Diana Taurasi, and Jaden has told him it's her dream to one day play for the nine-time national champion Huskies.

 
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