In the summer of 2005, Wolves' forward Martell Webster was the first high school player selected (No. 6 overall) in the last draft in which the NBA allowed prep ballers eligibility.
Yet there is nothing in Webster's manner, speech, or presentation of himself that would suggest he doesn't own a four-year college degree.
Acquired in a draft day trade with Portland, Webster has been back with on the court for eight games post missing the first 24 contests after undergoing a microdiscectomy in late October to alleviate recurring back pain.[jump]
When the Trailblazers drafted the Seattle native as a kid back in '05, there were no shortage of article remarking upon Webster's almost unusual maturity -- and that wasn't in regard to his physical statue. Now a young man five years later, there's something especially smooth about Webster's nature; something almost stately. Really: the guy doesn't act like he's 24, doesn't speak like he's 24, doesn't vibe like he's 24, and -- despite the ubiquitous NBA tats -- doesn't look like he's 24.
Just 24-years-old, he's the veteran of five NBA seasons and -- despite missing nearly a third of this season and all but five minutes of the 2008-09 campaign via injury -- has appeared in more regular-season games than all but three Wolf teammates.
After the Wolves felled New Orleans on Monday night, Webster spoke about his Minnesota arrival.
"I knew what was expected of me," the forward said after the Wolves notched just their second consecutive-win streak of the season. "I knew I was brought here for my experience, and just helping these guys understand the game, learn the game. I definitely see that as my role."
Then, evidencing a wry sense-of-humor, Webster added, "It's a good thing I can play a little bit, shoot a little bit -- so that doesn't hurt too much."
In short time, a healthy Webster has fast proven that his game's no joke. In his eight outings heading into Wednesday night's home set versus Denver, Webster has averaged nearly 14 points per game via a stellar .480 field goal percentage. From three point territory, the smooth demeanor has mirrored a silky touch, as Webster has dropped 11 triples (1.4 per game) and is pacing for 80 three balls in his abbreviated season. With over 22 minutes played in each of his appearances, he's shown no ill-effects of his recent surgery.
Watching the Wolves from the bench until mid-December, Webster took careful note of both the team's potholes, and progress.
"I saw we were a little tentative at first, guys didn't quite know the offense or know position," he said. "The chemistry wasn't strong at all because this is a new team. It takes time to build that. But I saw it getting stronger every week. And as long as we're doing that, I think the upside is tremendous."
This isn't Webster first rodeo with a young crew. Yet, as opposed to some of the youthful teams he played with in his early Portland years, he sees in the Wolves (the NBA's youngest team in average age) a collection of talent that refuses to take defeat lightly.
"A lot of emotions," Webster said of the youth-movement contrasts between his present and former teams. "There's been a lot of losing, and there's been a lot of emotion about it. It hasn't been like we've rolled over, like, 'Oh, we've got another game.' Guys have been mad; guys have been upset at losses. Especially with the key, close losses that we've had. We've learned from those things."
Of course, outward displays of anger belie the truly smooth. As the Wolves continue to slowly transcend back toward respectability, look for Webster's own frustrations to be characterized in the form of a soft jump shot, and mature verse.