Basketball: 'Microwave' Breaker puts the heat on

By Michael Brown

Corey Webster grasps his second chance with both hands and burns up the court

Back from the cold, Corey Webster has repaid the Breakers' reinstatement with impressive performances. Photo / Greg Bowker
Back from the cold, Corey Webster has repaid the Breakers' reinstatement with impressive performances. Photo / Greg Bowker

For someone who was once out in the cold, being known as "The Microwave" is a triumph for Corey Webster.

The guard's Breakers' contract was terminated and he served a 12-month ban from basketball for using synthetic cannabis as it was his second drugs offence. But he was given another chance by the Breakers and he has repaid them with a series of impressive performances.

There were none better than last week's 14 points in as many minutes in the 98-81 defeat of Perth, when he landed four of six shots from the field and gave his side a spark.

His numbers don't tell the full story - he has averaged 5.8 points a game this season - because he makes things happen at both ends of the court.

Vinnie Johnson was the original Microwave. The former Detroit Pistons guard once scored 22 points in a quarter of a playoff game coming off the bench and he is still considered one of the greatest sixth men in NBA history.

Johnson could, as the nickname would suggest, heat up in an instant.

Webster still has some way to go to match Johnson's feats but will take the moniker. The back-up point guard will take anything he's given at the moment.

The 24-year-old knows what life is like on the other side - he famously packed supermarket shelves at night to prove his commitment - and likes the view better from where he's presently sitting. He has largely walked away from his circle of friends to ensure nothing jeopardises his basketball career.

"Me having to go through that experience and not playing basketball was huge for me," Webster says.

"It gave me a new vision, a new drive. I can say now I probably needed it. Growing up, there's not as much pressure on you. Once you get in that professional stage everything changes and you can't do what you want. Having it taken away, I realise you can't take anything for granted. You have to work hard every day."

Webster has been true to his word. He went to China for two months last year to work under former Australia coach Brian Goorjian and returned in better shape than he has ever been. He has since followed a largely chicken and broccoli diet and is often found doing extra training to keep him in top shape.

Webster also comes up against the league's best player, Cedric Jackson, in training every day which has had a profound impact on his game. The old Webster might have got upset about his lack of court-time but the new one understands the big picture.

"I feel like I am contributing to the wins and that's the main thing," he says. "When I am out there, I have to contribute. I can't just float around. I feel good and have a good confidence right now."

Breakers general manager Richard Clarke says he also has more maturity. Clarke has seen big changes in Webster and didn't believe it was a risk to give him a new contract despite being a repeat offender.

"Once someone does something wrong, people point the finger a lot and you hear that Corey did this and Corey did that," Clark says. "We fronted him on them but he was so strong that he would never do anything ... that would compromise his opportunity.

"If you talk to Corey, you can see he's in a really good place in this life now. You know you are going to get a lot back from a player like that who has had to earn a way back in.

"For us, it backs up the approach we had with him. You make an assessment around whether someone is worth persevering with and Corey clearly was.

"We have that very simple rule of no dickheads [at the club] so, when something happens like that, is it someone making a mistake or are they are a dickhead? Corey made a mistake. He passed that test."

From bad to good

June 2010
Webster suspended by Harbour Heat for failing a random drugs test. He was found to have smoked cannabis.

September 2011
Webster sent home and suspended by the Breakers after failing a second drugs test while on Tall Blacks duty. He used a synthetic form of cannabis that was not illegal in New Zealand but was on WADA's banned list.

November 2011
Breakers terminate Webster's contract after he is slapped with a 12-month drugs ban.

August 2012
Breakers hand Webster a lifeline with a new contract for the 2012-13 ANBL season.

February 2013
Webster scores 14 points in as many minutes in the Breakers' 98-81 defeat of Perth.

- APNZ

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