Child's Play: Fifth-Grade Basketball Wiz Shines on Varsity Stage

Child's Play: Fifth-Grade Basketball Wiz Shines on Varsity Stage

Measuring 5’3″, Tyrone ‘Muggsy’ Bogues (pictured with Michael Jordan) is the shortest NBA player of all time. At 4’5″, Julian “Handles” Newman is perhaps not only the shortest high school basketball player in the country, but also the youngest. This dual distinction has a straightforward explanation: he is just an eleven year old and in the fifth grade. And over the course of this year’s basketball season, Julian Newman has proven that although you can’t teach height, talent is a great equalizer.

Despite having to drive the lane against opponents old enough to drive the team bus, the “half-pint highlight reel” is Downey Christian High School (Orlando, FL) varsity basketball team’s starting point guard. In December, when covered the story, many may have been suspicious if perhaps favoritism played a role given that Downey Christian’s coach, Jamie Newman, is also Julian’s father. The fifth-grader, though, is earning both playing time and respect by putting up impressive numbers. According to, Julian is currently on pace to finish the season averaging a double-double, with 12 points and 10.9 assists per game. His 10.9 assists per game ranks first in Florida.    

What’s more, college coaches will have plenty of game tape to breakdown because Julian is set to have a long varsity career. According to section of the Florida High School Athletic Association’s bylaws:    

“A student’s four-year limit of high school eligibility is not affected by the student’s participation in interscholastic athletics before beginning the ninth grade for the first time.”  

Assuming young Julian stays healthy and doesn’t have to repeat a grade in high school, he can look forward to playing another seven years on the varsity squad.    

How did Julian make the jump from fifth grade student to varsity athlete? According to Coach Newman, it was after Julian lit up an opposing middle school team by scoring 91 points in three quarters, as noted by   

For the season, Downey Christian is 20-5. Five wins, however, have come by forfeit. In a New York Times article, Coach Newman offered a possible explanation: “the real reason is, they don’t want to lose.” 

Coach Newman, for his part, is not surprised by his son’s successful varsity campaign debut. “He has moves that even NBA players don’t have,” Coach Newman told “He does stuff that hasn’t been done before with the ball,” he added. 

With three million views and counting, this YouTube video of Julian is proving the coach may be right.