Martell Webster awaits next chapter
The tryouts are over now. Martell Webster passed all of the auditions. The worries about his ankle are long gone. Time for the NBA draft.
Seattle Times staff columnist
His friend heard the frustration in Martell Webster's voice. He saw it when they shot hoops in the gym. They talked about it all last summer, in hotel rooms, on airplanes, at restaurants and on the front porch.
Last summer was the worst of Webster's basketball life and his good friend and teammate Spencer Hawes suffered with him.
Webster still was rehabbing his injured left ankle. He still couldn't play hard every day. And he spent most of the summer on the sideline as his AAU team, Friends of Hoop, played and beat many of the best AAU teams in the country.
Webster was happy for teammates, but frustrated that he couldn't be more help. His head told him he was ready to get back on the court, but his ankle and his doctors and his great aunt, Beulah Walker, told him to take it slowly.
He had missed almost all of his junior season at Seattle Prep, suffering a partially chipped bone in his right foot before the ankle injury, and, as much as he wanted to make up for all the lost games, Webster knew he had to let the injuries heal. He was patiently impatient.
"It was hard for all of us to watch. To see what he was going through," said Hawes, a teammate of Webster's at both Seattle Prep and Friends of Hoop. "How he had to sit and watch. There's nothing in the world he would rather have been doing than playing with us.
"He waited so long for his opportunity to come back and play with his friends and his teammates that he'd been with for so long. To play with debatably the best AAU teams in the nation last year. You could tell it was really eating away at him when he wasn't able to compete with us."
Through the summer, Webster's game slowly came back. He had a McDonald's All-American senior season and, after deciding to go to Washington, reconsidered and announced in May his intention to enter the NBA draft, the first Washington high-schooler to do so.
"He had so much to come back from after he got injured," said Hawes, who will be a senior at Prep and is one of the nation's most highly recruited big men. "Trying to prove to himself and everyone who was doubting him, how good he was and that he really hadn't lost a beat after his injury. So first he had that, then he had everything with making the college choice and what that came down to. How hard a decision that was.
"Then he kind of had to do a similar decision all over again, making the biggest decision of his life, whether he was going to go to college or the NBA. I know he's had a lot of stress on him this year, but I think he's handled it real well and done it with class."
Although he suffered a slight right ankle sprain in pre-draft workouts, Webster is healthy now. He averaged 27.7 points and 10 rebounds for Prep last season.
Now he is a day removed from the NBA draft. He impressed the Portland Trail Blazers at a recent workout that included Washington's Nate Robinson and North Carolina's Rashad McCants.
During his visit, Webster also had dinner with owner Paul Allen, who watched the workout, and general manager John Nash. The Blazers, who have the third pick in the draft, are considering trading down and choosing Webster.
Webster, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard, could be the best shooter in the draft and has a prototypical long, lean NBA body. At his workout with Portland, he proved to the Trail Blazers that he could play defense, the biggest rap against his game.
If you're looking for an NBA comparison, Webster, at his best, is reminiscent of Tracy McGrady, or at least Glen Rice.
He could be a perfect building block for a team like Portland, or McGrady's former team, the Orlando Magic, or Toronto, or the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Some people say Martell shoots too much. He settles [for jumpers] too much," Hawes said. "But I think a lot of that had to do with that being what he was comfortable with. What he felt safe with after his injury. That was factoring into his game. But not anymore.
"Like it or not, when you have an injury like he had, it sticks in the back of your mind. Whether you want it to be or not, it's always there. It wasn't that he was settling, that he didn't want to get to the rim, but subconsciously it was bothering him."
The tryouts are over now. Webster passed all of the auditions. The worries about his ankle are long gone. And early tomorrow night, at Madison Square Garden's theater, he will hear commissioner David Stern call his name and the page will be turned to the next chapter of his life.
"There's not a doubt in my mind that he'll be ready to come in and be effective," Hawes said. "He's got the most-ready body and the most mature game. If you can shoot the ball the way he does, teams are going to have a spot for you, so he's going to be able to contribute right away.
"He's not going to have any trouble stepping in and hitting jumpers, then as he gets more acclimated to the game and the athletes and how it's different, he'll be able to expand his game to where it's more diverse."
And the league could have its next Tracy McGrady.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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