Elijah Hughes just recently declared for the NBA Draft. And on Saturday, graduate transfer Seth Towns committed to Ohio State. This chain of events left Robert Braswell as SU’s only wing, and Braswell redshirted last season with shin pains. So who will step up for the Orange? Incoming freshman Woody Newton might be the answer. Here are my thoughts on Newton’s game (and the videos I used to evaluate him).
Woody Newton is a 6’8, 190 lb. wing from Baltimore. He attended McKinley Tech in Washington D.C. for his first two years of high school, then transferred to Mt. Zion Prep outside of Baltimore for his junior and senior years. Newton is a three-star prospect according to 247 Sports, ranked as the 128th-best recruit in the country with a composite score of .9313. He chose Syracuse over hometown Maryland, as well as Seton Hall, West Virginia, and eight other schools. Newton plans to take classes over the summer at SU and major in broadcast journalism.
While Newton describes himself as a slasher, I think his best offensive skill is his jump shot. Newton’s shot is extremely compact. He pulls the ball quickly up in front of his face and lets it fly. Newton is best shooting off the catch, whether that’s off of a screen or spotting up in the corner. He can shoot pull up jumpers off the dribble as well, but hasn’t done as much scoring as a ball handler since changing high schools. His shooting (right) elbow does flare out, and while it doesn’t affect his shot, I’d love to see Newton take advantage of his length and move his release point a bit higher to avoid shot blockers. To do so, he’ll have to tuck the elbow into the conventional “90 degree L.” However, Newton’s quick trigger ensures he will be at the least competent from deep for Jim Boeheim, even if he doesn’t change his mechanics.
At McKinley Tech, Newton appeared to be the tallest player every time he stepped out on the court and took advantage of his size. Newton’s handles and driving abillity are both still developing, but his natural length and athleticism give him the tools to score on smaller defenders. Newton takes long strides to the basket and can finish on either side allowing, often using the rim as protection. His euro step is extremely effective, especially in transition when defenders tend to reach for the ball. Newton has great leaping ability, which combined with his long arms allow him to finish over opponents and jam with ease. Newton won’t have to handle the ball much at Syracuse, but will surely have some great highlight dunks.
Newton has all the tools to be a great asset to the 2-3 zone. While watching film, I immediately noticed Newton’s high motor. His head is always on a swivel, and his feet are active no matter where the ball is on the floor. Newton is always looking to help or switch. Watch Newton on this possession against Brewster Academy (and fellow SU commit Kadary Richmond) and you’ll notice how well he and his Mt. Zion teammates trade assignments. Even after moving to help on Richmond’s drive, Newton returns to box out his man in the corner.
Newton’s length is a huge defensive plus. His long arms make him tough to beat in one-on-one situations. He is also a ball hawk, intercepting passes and then leading the fast break. He can quickly cover ground to recover if initially beat off the dribble. And he can get up to reject shots, and is willing to contest even if it means drawing a foul. His chase down ability is excellent as well.
Newton has the tenacity and competitive edge to be a lockdown defender at the collegiate level. On the AAU circuit, where defense is sometimes optional, Newton is diving for loose balls, ripping away rebounds, and generally causing havoc. This two-play sequence perfectly encapsulates Newton’s effort level and defensive skill set.
Growing up, Newton idolized Kevin Durant, and although his frame is similar to Durant’s, his game is different. He’s not a pure scorer, embodying more of the “3 and D” prototype who can put the ball on the floor if needed. But Newton makes up for any offensive shortcomings with his defensive ability.
Chances are Newton could steal some of Braswell’s minutes off the bench, especially if he is allowed to enroll at SU over the summer and add some muscle to his 190-pound frame. Syracuse assistant coach Adrian Griffin said “His (Newton’s) better days are way ahead of him. His potential and his upside are huge.” And I completely agree with Coach Griffin. Once Newton adds strength and becomes a consistent shooter, he’ll be another excellent wing for the Orange.