Webster looks to repay NZ Breakers' faith
It's taken a while but a slimmed-down, tooled-up Corey Webster has finally reached a point where he's starting to feel good about himself.
Webster did the crime and the time, when he spent a year in the hoops wilderness after being banned for puffing on the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Now he finally feels like redemption is at hand.
The New Zealand Breakers stood by Webster when they reinstated him as soon as his suspension was up, and the talented Tall Black is at last delivering the payback in terms of his performances off the bench for the Australian NBL league leaders.
The combo guard is coming off back-to-back double-figure production nights and heads to Sydney for the first of five road games in the next six outings with a real spring in his step.
"I feel like it's time for redemption, like I needed do that," he said after pouring in 21 points over the last two games. "I don't want to go out on court looking like I'm lost out there.
"I want to contribute and start to pay the club back for what I missed."
Webster is in the shape of his life, courtesy of an off-season stint training with Brian Goorjian in China, and has rededicated himself to his craft after his fall from grace.
"I've learned so much from it, it's changed me as a person," he says. "I feel like I've got more of a professional side to me now, more drive now. My life's on a good track right now and it will stay like that."
The most obvious spinoff of Webster's hoops revival has been his improvement as a defender. That's seen his minutes off the bench increase dramatically.
Coach Andrej Lemanis said the club had to make an assessment on whether Webster had made the necessary changes in his life when they decided to re-contract him for this season.
"He's continued to show improvement in that area, and that starts to show itself in ways like understanding the game is about more than just offence," said Lemanis. "He needs to be an active participant in the defence and it needs to be important to him.
"On Friday for the first time we really started to see he did believe in the defensive end and felt it was important. That's a sign of progression and growth for him."
In one short stretch against the Tigers Webster demonstrated that growth in his game when he stuck to former NBA star Jonny Flynn like glue, rose up and blocked his shot and then got down court quick enough to pick up an easy transition hoop . "I'm just trying to contribute," adds the 24-year-old. "I don't want be out there in limbo. I want to spark the team, provide some instant offence and a couple of steals if I can. If I keep coming out doing positive things, that's going to increase my game-time.
"I can score, but to round my game out I need to be a good defender as well. Getting in shape has helped me a lot. When you're not quite as fit you tend to rest on D a bit. But I don't need to rest any more."
Webster is also benefiting from going up against the league's best player, Cedric 'Action' Jackson, every day in training.
"It's great to work with him," says Webster. "I think he's at NBA level, even though he hasn't been given the chance yet. It's good to come in every day and learn from him, and even veteran players like CJ [Bruton] and Dillon [Boucher]."
Webster, Jackson, Bruton and Daryl Corletto will have their work cut out on Saturday dealing with the guardline threats of the Kings, but Webster is confident the Breakers can embark on another winning streak after their bounce-back thrashing of the Tigers.
"We've had a good few days of practice, and usually when we have a good week of practice we come out and play well."
Webster also revealed his motivation for re-signing with Wellington's Saints club for the New Zealand NBL."[Owner] Nick Mills is a great guy and he had my back when I was going through that tough time.
"I was just grateful he was there for me."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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