Broughton junior point guard D.J. Thomas didn’t spend all night on YouTube to study his defensive assignment in the first round of the John Wall Holiday Invitational on Wednesday, though he could have.
Julian Newman, a 5-7 sophomore point guard scoring sensation from Orlando’s Downey Christian, entered the tournament with some of the most buzz of any player in nation’s high school ranks. His range and shooting ability have him compared to Stephen Curry. There were national articles written about him after he scored the 3,000th point in his high school career, which began when he made varsity as a fifth grader.
But when Newman sized up Thomas near midcourt for a 1-on-1 isolation, and as a packed crowd rose to its feet expecting a highlight to emerge from the showdown, Thomas was cool under pressure.
Thomas, just 5-7 himself, kept Newman out of his scoring rhythm all game long as Broughton went on to win 71-51.
Newman ended the game with 12 points on 2-of-10 shooting. Thomas scored seven, adding four assists and two steals.
“People kept telling me what he does and how he pulls up, and I used that to my advantage and just played my game,” Thomas said, which included “forcing him to one side, making him keep it in one hand, double-teaming him, making him pick up the ball, just making him make turnovers.”
A growing roar happened any time Newman got the ball in isolation. For most of the game, though, Newman couldn’t shake Thomas, or, when he did, his shot misfired.
“He’s a great player, and we really keyed on him a lot,” Broughton coach Jeff Ferrell said. “We did a great job of helping out at the right times.”
The defining play of the head-to-head battle between Newman and Thomas came with a little more than three minutes to go in the first half.
Newman tried to go around Thomas, but Thomas poked the ball away. Teammate Jalen Finch collected the loose ball and fired it ahead to Thomas, who absorbed contact on his breakaway layup and finished for an old-fashioned three-point play.
The crowd again came to its feet, but it was to cheer on the underdog leading his team to a win.
Newman grew more frustrated as the game went on, and other players showed the same fight as Thomas. In the fourth quarter, Newman was given a technical foul for throwing his shoulder into Darian Williams as the two jostled for positioning during a Downey Christian inbounds play.
“Darian and D.J., they faced him really well. They were up to the challenge,” Broughton senior forward Tyler Palmer said. “You saw it – they shut him down, basically.”