Webster in family firm

07:38, Apr 19 2009

Sometimes Tony Webster wishes he could just sit back in the stands and savour the thrill of watching his son's spectacular rookie season in the National Basketball League. But he can't, he's got to yell at him to get back on defence.

You see, Webster wears two hats when it comes to his son, Corey, a Breakers development player who right now is Harbour Heat's hot point guard in the NBL.

Outside of game and practice time he's plain old dad, a shoulder to lean on, some sage advice at the ready whenever it's required, but inside those white lines the relationship morphs into a far more complex one.

Tony coaches the Heat, who are 3-1 and rolling along nicely, and it just so happens Corey is his star player, even though he's just 20 and in his first season in the NBL.

It's not a new situation for Tony, who was an NBL legend back in the day with North Shore. He has coached Corey before at age-grade level, most importantly with the Junior Tall Blacks when the sweet-shooting youngster was also a leading figure in one of his teams.

But at this level, with the weekly pressure of fronting in a national league, Webster senior admits it's a scenario he had been hoping he wouldn't have to work through.


"I tried to avoid this - I wanted him to stay at university in the States, but since he made himself available, I had to pick him up.

"There was no way I was going to let him play for anyone but myself."

Corey had a season at Lambuth University in Tennessee, where he was freshman of the year in the NAIA TranSouth Conference, before returning to New Zealand last year to take up a spot on the Breakers roster as a development player.

Tony says his year at college was the start of a pretty intense learning and development process for his son, who continued that on with the Breakers, where he soaked up the benefits of spending every day alongside the likes of Kirk Penney, C J Bruton and Tony Ronaldson.

As a result, Corey started this NBL season as if he was a seasoned campaigner. He had 33 points in the Heat's league-opening win over crosstown rivals the Auckland Stars, then had 38 and 43 points respectively in road victories at Hawke's Bay and Manawatu to earn player of the week honours.

It was only in Thursday night's home opener against the Saints that the youngster encountered his first reality check of the season. He was heavily marked and held to a season-low 18 points as the Heat were iced 100-85.

Tony admits that it's going to get tough from here on in, saying the still self-conscious youngster is now a "marked man".

"I'm very proud he's followed in my footsteps," says Tony. "I wish I was able to sit back and watch, but fortunately I'm in the situation where I've got to coach. That's just as good, I suppose, and just gives me a closer seat to watch him develop."

His advice for the player as his coach? "Just keep working hard, keep his feet on the ground and don't let any of this stuff get out of hand." And as a father to his son? "I just want him to enjoy it and not to put too much pressure on himself. He doesn't have to prove anything, just go out and play his game."

Right now that game not only has the coach content but the father fair bursting with pride.

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