Julian Newman, an 11-year-old basketball player in central Florida, is a hoops prodigy.
A 4-foot-5, 70-pound point guard (could he play any other position at his age and size?), Julian's crazy ball-handling skills and speed helped him guide the Downey Christian School varsity basketball team to a 21-6 record last season. He led his team, not to mention the state of Florida, in assists last season.
Since he was discovered by Yahoo! Sports in December of last year, Julian has become a digital media darling. A YouTube video showcasing his basketball skills has more than 3.4 million views. The New York Times featured the boy on the front page of its sports section. Sports Illustrated Kids produced a featured video about him. Late-night TV show host Conan O'Brien had him on his TBS show as a guest and sent him to an L.A. Lakers game to see his basketball hero, Kobe Bryant.
Not bad for a young man who has yet to hit his first growth spurt. Not bad at all.
"He was born with a God-given gift," Julian's father and coach Jamie Newman told Reuters. "He was born with that passion and that drive. And he stayed focused to get where he is today."
Julian's gift has several thousand hours of work behind it. According to the New York Times, Julian fills every spare moment of his days with basketball. He hits 100 free throws, 200 floaters and 200 jump shots per day, not to mention he regularly shoots from 3-point range.
According to his parents, both of whom played high school basketball — they met, in fact, through the game — Julian is a self-made prodigy. He gets good grades because of their requirement that he finish his homework before he hits the basketball court.
The result? He finishes his homework during recess so that he doesn't have to delay when the end-of-day bell rings.
"You see more of him dribbling the ball than you’ll see watching an NBA game," Jamie Newman told The New York Times. "He can do stuff that Chris Paul and Derrick Rose can’t."
It's that ability that led Julian to the starting gig at Downey Christian, beating out kids twice his size and several years older.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company