Last season, junior guard Ja’Quan Newton made himself known as one of the best sixth men in the country, averaging over 10 points per game off the bench for the Miami Hurricanes. This season, Newton has been taking on a bigger role in more ways than one.
Newton has replaced former Hurricane Ángel Rodríguez as the starting point guard; Rodríguez led the team in assists and was second in scoring last season. Miami has high expectations for Newton, who is transitioning from being a combo, score-first guard to a more traditional point guard.
“They are two very different kinds of players,” Head Coach Jim Larrañaga said. “Ángel was a guy who could penetrate and pitch, but was also a very good three-point shooter. Ja’Quan is really an attack guy, he really like to get into the paint, which is going to be helpful for the team’s performance.”
The 6-foot-2 guard from Philadelphia is known for his aggressive style on offense. Newton gets to the rim with relentless drive and is able to finish strong at the basket. Even when he doesn’t convert on the shot, he is often able to draw fouls to get to the free-throw line.
“I don’t force anything,” Newton said. “I have the mindset that no one can guard me, so I’ll take what the defense gives me.”
Even with his clear scoring ability, Newton has a new approach to the game this year: getting his teammates involved.
“Ja’Quan will continue to penetrate the defense, but he has done a great job creating shots for others,” senior guard and captain Davon Reed said. “Over the summer, the biggest thing for him was about taking on that leadership role as the third captain of the team and not having any off days from a leading perspective.”
Knowing that the team features four freshmen, Newton has been using his experience to set the path for the younger players and now embraces being a leader on the team behind Reed and redshirt senior forward and co-captain Kamari Murphy.
“I wasn’t the person to be vocal last season,” Newton said. “This year, I’ve really been working on that. Especially with the new guys, if they do something wrong, I tell them that they can correct it. If they need help, I’m here.”
Newton has shown improvements in both his shooting and his physical strength, much of which he credits to his training over the summer. He came into this season weighing 191 pounds, six pounds heavier than his starting weight the previous year. Newton plans to continue to use this to his advantage as he fights through the game-to-game contact that comes with being a starting guard in the NCAA.
“The transition is a little different because teams are more focused on you now,” Newton said. “Teams are going to focus their scouting reports on you.”
His individual statistics are expected to rise this season, and he will receive more attention from the media and fans, but there is only one thing that matters to Newton.
“I just want to win,” Newton said. “The more my team wins, the recognition will come with it.”