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Originally published March 31, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 31, 2005 at 3:12 PM

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Steve Kelley

Webster shines on night of stars

He opened the night banking a straight-on three, quickly followed that with a tip-in and a downy three from the corner. In the first minute-and-a-half...

Seattle Times staff columnist

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — He opened the night banking a straight-on three, quickly followed that with a tip-in and a downy three from the corner. In the first minute-and-a-half of the McDonald's All-American game, Seattle Prep's Martell Webster had eight points for the West team, which lost 115-110.

Any questions?

It was the kind of performance that fuels the rumors, that ignites the conversations and excited the hundred or so NBA scouts who watched him at Tuesday's closed practice and at last night's game.

Martell Webster is the real deal.

You watch him against the best of the best and imagine a season, just one season, at Washington. Think about what he could do for the program and selfishly imagine what it would be like to watch him for 30-plus college games.

"I wish he could have stayed in for the whole game and had 50-plus tonight," said Snohomish forward Jon Brockman, who played with Webster last night and has played on the same team with him in scores of summer AAU games. "He showed why he's as highly touted as he is."

Brockman and Webster could become teammates at the University of Washington next season. But Brockman doesn't bother his friend with questions about the future. He sees how difficult the decision is for Webster.

All-American efforts

 

Jon Brockman, Snohomish:
6 points

 

Micah Downs, Juanita:
8 points

 

Martell Webster, Seattle Prep:
16 points

 

Kirsten Thompson, Monroe:
5 points

"We talk about the U-Dub, but I don't ask him about the pros," said Brockman, one of three Washington players (Juanita's Micah Downs was the third) in last night's game. "I don't ask him any questions about it because I know he's got enough pressure on his own."

In this run-and-gun game that is a talent showcase more than it is an Xs-and-Os clinic, Webster showed he has the stuff of first-round picks.

But as good as he was in last night's show-and-tell game, he was even better in the more serious Tuesday practice that was witnessed by a who's who of NBA general managers and scouts that included Sonics general manager Rick Sund.

The NBA's talent evaluators aren't allowed to talk about high-school players, but off the record, several said they were especially impressed with Webster's smooth shooting stroke and his almost-ready-for-the-NBA body.

"He's somewhere after the top five in the draft," one NBA scout said. "But he's definitely put himself in the conversation when you talk about the lottery.


Jon Brockman

"He'll know in the next couple of weeks (after Webster and Brockman play in the Nike Hoop Summit in Memphis and Michael Jordan's all-star game at Madison Square Garden). But for the next couple of weeks, he should just go out and enjoy the game and enjoy these moments."

And as May 14 approaches, the deadline for Webster to make his decision, the rumors about his future follow him from West Coast to East Coast.

One rumor says he has already decided to bypass Washington and go directly to the NBA. Another says he has already signed a shoe deal with Nike.

Rumors lie.


Kirsten Thompson

Webster, who yesterday was named a Parade Magazine first team All-American, still hasn't made a decision and certainly hasn't signed a shoe deal.

He continues fighting a personal tug-of-war. The joy of college pulling one way. The millions of the NBA pulling the other.

In the next couple of weeks, he will talk with his advisors and his grandmother, Beulah Walker. And before he decides he will ask the NBA's special draft committee, which will give him a decent idea of where he would land in the draft.


Martell Webster

"It's decision-making time," Webster, 18, said after scoring 16 points for the West. "Part of it's financial. I want to provide for my family, my sister, my brother, my uncle, what not. But at the same time I want something to fall back on. If I go to Washington for one year, it could only help."

Webster has watched with great interest as his friend Marvin Williams has had a freshman year to remember, going all the way to the Final Four with North Carolina.

He admitted that watching Williams has made him think even more seriously about going to Washington.

"I used to play against Marvin all the time in AAU," Webster said. "His Rotary team against my Friends of Hoop team. It was the matchup on the floor. We went at it head-to-head. He got me a couple of games and I got him a couple of games.


Micah Downs

"Just watching him succeed this year, it makes me want to work even harder. He got there, and I'm going to get there, too."

The millions of dollars will be there for Webster. This summer, next summer, the summer after that. The question that follows him wherever he goes, is whether he wants to continue to play a game, or turn basketball into his business.

"I'm still playing a game, but once you go into the NBA, it's a business," Webster said. "A lot of people don't realize that. A lot of people don't want to grow up so fast. They still want to have that childhood. College is your last chance at childhood. I'm proud of Marvin for going to college because he could have gone right to the NBA.

"I feel like it was the right decision for him. It's wearing off on all the people who look up to him and I'm one of them. I want to go to college like Marvin. But do I want to go to the NBA? It's decision-making time."

And the tug-of-war continues.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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