At some point not long ago the basketball world started to figure it out.
It turns out, you don’t defend, shoot or rebound with your head, and as a result, how far you can reach with your hands is more important than how tall you measure head to toe.
Over the last decade NBA and college teams began measuring wingspan as an essential component of their evaluation of draft and recruiting prospects.
“It’s legit. It’s much more important than your height,” Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said a few years ago in an AP report. … “I’m a big believer in that.”
The wingspan of a player is calculated by measuring from fingertip to fingertip with the arms outstretched. Typically, a wingspan is roughly equal to at least the height of a person but it can be longer than the height, which is called a plus wingspan.
Some of the NBA players thought to have the most impressive wingspans can only at best match new Indiana commit Jakai Newton.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is plus-four, as is LeBron James. Kevin Durant is plus-six.
The NBA’s rebounding leader Rudy Gobert is plus-eight, and that puts him in the same category as Newton, who stands at 6-foot-3 but measured in with a 6-foot-11 wingspan last weekend in Bloomington.
Only seven players have ever been measured to have plus-10 or greater wingspans at the NBA Draft combine. Newton isn’t quite that long, but with the average human right around plus-zero, it gives you a sense for where he falls in the spectrum.
Another way to look at it is where Newton falls in the IU record books. And when he measured last weekend and then committed today, he put his name at the top.
“They (Indiana) actually told me it was the highest plus-wingspan they have ever recorded at the school,” Newton told The Daily Hoosier. “The highest before that was Romeo Langford at plus-seven, mine was almost a plus-nine.”
Although his vertical wasn’t measured at IU, Newton estimates it be around 42-inches. Coupled with his wingspan, Indiana fans can expect plenty of highlight reel moments.
Newton also has a wider reach than the NBA player who he most looks up to and models his game after. Russell Westbrook is the same height as Newton and he has built his reputation on triple-doubles that are only possible because of his ability to rebound the ball from his guard position. Westbrook’s wingspan is 6-foot-8. That Newton is plus-three more than that, and he averaged more than seven rebounds a game as a sophomore in high school gives you a sense for the unique ways he might be able to impact the game while at Indiana.
Newton is still just 16 and thus a long way from the NBA, but it isn’t a reach, pun intended, to think his wingspan will eventually catch the eye of league scouts.
Until a week ago, it was an asset that Newton didn’t fully appreciate he owned.
“I didn’t realize it until my guy Clif Marshall, the strength coach at Indiana told me,” Newton said. “He said ‘man that’s like freaky, that’s amazing, because that’s the first thing those NBA guys look for.'”
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