basketball Edit

Five-star Asa Newell's life and career comes full circle in Athens

When five-star prospect Asa Newell put pen to paper Wednesday, making him a member of the Georgia basketball team, his life officially turned full circle.

“It felt great,” Newell said in an exclusive interview with UGASports. “I thought I was always a part of the family, but officially being part of the family, the culture, and the brand at UGA, it feels really good. I feel at home.”

The nation’s No. 16 player literally is.

Newell and his family called Athens home before moving to Destin, Florida when he was 10 years old.

More recently, Newell’s journey has taken him throughout the world as a member of the USA Men’s Basketball U17 and U19 National Teams along with his current home at the prestigious Montverde Academy located in Montverde, Florida.

When he returns to Athens next year as a member of Georgia’s 2024 class, Newell will be back on familiar ground.

As children, Asa and older brother Jaden attended preschool at the Child Development Lab at the McPhaul Center, located right across the street from Stegeman Coliseum.

Later, the two brothers attended a basketball camp run by former Bulldog head coach Mark Fox. As a precocious 7-year-old, Asa Newell swam for the Bulldog Swim Club, coached by legendary Georgia swim coach Jack Bauerle.

One grandmother worked in the office of former UGA president Michael Adams, with the other at the UGA Veterinary Medical School.

“Our children have a really rich history there in Athens with their grandmothers at the University, and Asa being a little boy, literally growing up on that campus. They took piano lessons at the music school; they were always running around that campus,” said Carmen Newell, Asa's mother. “It’s a total homecoming.”

Her son wholeheartedly agrees.

“Athens has changed a little bit,” Asa Newell said. “When I came back for the first time, I started getting nostalgic. We drove by our old house, and it still looked the same. Athens feels like home.”

The fact he’ll be reunited with older brother Jaden, in his second season as a walk-on with the Bulldogs, makes his return extra special.

“It’s going to be really cool. Two kids who grew up in Athens, being back home to a place that I love,” Asa Newell said. “Me and him have been through a lot. Having another year being on a team with him, I never thought this day would come. It’s really exciting that I get to spend another chapter of my life with my big bro.”

By signing with Georgia, Asa Newell's life and career have come full circle.
By signing with Georgia, Asa Newell's life and career have come full circle. (Rivals)

Newell anxious to leave his mark, lift up the Bulldog basketball program

At 6-foot-9 and 205 pounds, the talented lefty said he’s ready to put Georgia basketball on the map.

“Obviously, you know Georgia football and how good that is. Georgia football is crazy. I feel like while I know that, Georgia is hungry for some basketball, too,” Newell said. “I’m going to change the culture. Mike White is going to change the culture, as he’s doing now, taking over and everything. We’re building this thing up.”

As White and his staff do with every member of the program, Newell will have a specific plan in place.

The goal is not only to help players flourish academically but to see them become the best players they become on the court, and the best men they can be off it.

“My brother has been there, on the academic side, and you’re going to get the help you need,” Newell said. “They’re going to put us in a situation where you’re not going to fail. If you do fail, it will be on us. They have the platform; they have everything to get the most important thing—your academics—done.”

In regard to his growth on the court, Newell said a specific plan is already in place there, too.

“On the basketball side, Coach (Erik) Pastrana, the coach who recruited me the hardest, along with Coach White, put a really detailed plan together about my strengths and weaknesses, sharpening my toolbox, sharpening the things that I’m good at, helping with some of those things,” Newell said. “I’m growing into my body still, so obviously getting more explosive, getting more physical, finishing through contact, working on my weak hand, having more precision with my shot.

"I came to UGA to become a pro, and I believe they’re (coaches) not going to fail me.”

“I’m going to change the culture. Mike White is going to change the culture, as he’s doing now, taking over, and everything. We’re building this thing up.”
— Asa Newell

How Kirby Smart lent a hand

When Newell made his official visit to Georgia he, along with Bulldog target Derrion Reid, attended the Bulldogs’ football game against Kentucky.

While on the field approximately 30 minutes before kickoff, head football coach Kirby Smart walked over.

Newell never dreamed what would happen next.

“He was talking about how we needed to come to UGA. I had a Montverde hoodie on, and he knew a little bit about Montverde. We talked a little bit about basketball,” Newell said. “He’s a really good guy, a cool guy, and it’s really amazing what he’s doing with the football program. I don’t remember the exact conversation. It was brief, but it gave us the chance to get to know each other a little bit.”

The simple fact that Smart would come over for a little chat showed Newell a lot.

“I was like, man. He’s a Hall of Fame Coach. He’s going to be arguably one of the greatest coaches of all time in college football,” he said. “He’s about to three-peat. I was like wow, these people really love me, and it shows how important I am that the coach of the two-time national champions, 30 minutes before a game, comes to me and chop it up.”

Plenty to be thankful for

When you’re one of the top high school basketball players in the country, life can be a little hectic.

Now that he can catch his breath, Newell acknowledged the journey was a long one.

“It’s a handful. It wasn’t an easy process whatsoever. I’m just so glad I had God with me, first of all,” Newell said. “I had him by my side, me looking up to him, and helping me throughout this whole process.”

A close-knit family made the process easier, too.

“You’ve got to have a really good support system, a really good circle. You’ve got to keep the good people in and the bad people out,” Newell said. “I did a pretty good job, and my family did a pretty good job of keeping the outside noise out.”

He’s now ready for the challenges that await in Athens.

“It’s a blessing to be in the position where I am, and where I’m at to see all my hard work come to fruition,” Newell said. “I’m not stopping now. I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s just amazing.”