From Burges high school to the floor of the final four
EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The month of March is winding down but the madness is really just beginning because come April 1st, final four play begins.
If your bracket is busted like the rest of us and you don't have a dog in the fight, there is still one team and one player in particular the sun city should be rooting for this weekend.
The team is UConn. The player is Tristen Newton. The stage is a dream.
Newton started playing basketball at four years old, following his older brother Jawaun's footsteps.
"I always wanted to be better than him and he always wanted to be better than me so like it was just a competitive nature growing up and we loved it," Jawaun said.
The duos drive and skill saw their cousins Aaron and Alvin Jones take them to an open workout at Burges high school when Tristen was in just the sixth grade.
That's when Burges basketball coach Paul Gutierrez first saw the now UConn star play. Even then Gutierrez recalls seeing something special in Newton.
“He had that edge to his game that he didn’t care who he was playing against or who was guarding him he just played hard and when you have that kind of confidence in your game the sky is the limit," Gutierrez said.
That edge saw Newton play all four years with the purple and gold and absolutely light it up. He scored 3,266 points, grabbed 853 rebounds, had 472 assists and 334 steals.
As a senior he averaged 37.2 points a game which ranked him first in Texas and sixth in the entire country.
"He just had the game in him," Gutierrez said. "As soon as we saw him play that freshman year we knew Tristen was going to be the next great player to come out of El Paso and we just needed the rest of the nation to see that and believe in that."
Despite his stats and what Gutierrez thought of him, Newton was lightly recruited out of high school and landed at East Carolina.
"I always say it's not where you're from it's what you can do," Tristen's Dad Montreal said.
In his three years with the pirates, Newton started in 65 games, scored more than 1,000 points and averaged just over 13 points a game. His showing with the pirates saw a tonne of schools come calling and Newton made the call to go the UConn.
"Instead of going to the biggest name he wanted to go to the best fit for him," Montreal said.
When you look at the year Newton and UConn have had, you couldn't imagine a better fit.
Newton has started all but one game for the Huskies. He's averaging over 10 points a game and became the only player in UConn history to have multiple triple doubles in a single season.
"I always knew he could do it, since he was young like middle school, I always knew," Jawaun said. "He just had to prove it to the world and he's been doing it so it ain't no surprise to me."
"Now he's actually showing that hey there are some kids that can come from El Paso that can play at the highest level," Montreal said.
The level doesn't get much higher than the final four of the NCAA Tournament.
Newton and the No. 4 UConn Huskies play the No. 5 Miami Hurricanes in the final four on Saturday at 6:50 p.m. MT.