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Darryl Webster goes from Coolidge to GW to proud father of a Harvard man

Harvard guard Christian Webster, standing center, cheers on his team during a win over George Washington at the Smith Center. His father, Darryl Webster, played for the Colonials in the '80s, but rooted on the Crimson from the first row behind the bench.
Harvard guard Christian Webster, standing center, cheers on his team during a win over George Washington at the Smith Center. His father, Darryl Webster, played for the Colonials in the '80s, but rooted on the Crimson from the first row behind the bench. (Toni L. Sandys/the Washington Post)
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Sunday, January 16, 2011; 12:07 AM

For all the stories about what can go wrong in college athletics, there are still occasionally stories about what can go right.

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One of those stories unfolded Saturday afternoon at Smith Center, when Harvard came to town to play George Washington. The Crimson pulled out a 67-62 victory to up their record to 12-3, rallying with its two leading scorers on the bench with injuries that occurred during the game.

Christian Webster, Landon Class of 2009, started at shooting guard for Harvard. He came into the game averaging 14.1 points per game, making him the second-leading scorer for the Crimson, and had eight points in 14 minutes when he felt a sharp pain in his hip during a scramble for the ball inside.

Even with treatment, he could barely walk back up the steps from the locker room at halftime, so he sat on the bench, eyes rimmed in red from the pain and from frustration at not being able to play in his homecoming game.

But as Harvard rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit, no one cheered harder for the Crimson than Darryl Webster, Coolidge High School Class of 1982 and GW Class of 1986, proud father of the injured Harvard sophomore with the sweet shot and the calm demeanor. A few rows up from the Webster family sat Gerry Gimelstob, who Darryl Webster would tell you was largely responsible for his son being on the floor in a Harvard uniform.

"I was raised by my grandparents," Darryl Webster said as people began to file into the gym. "My grandfather never got beyond the fourth grade. I was lucky to graduate from high school. I had a 2.0 grade-point average and bad SATs. But Gerry took a chance on me. I came here and got into the remedial education program before my freshman year.

"Even then, it was a struggle at first. Gerry had a rule we had to go to study hall every day or come here and run around the building at 5 o'clock in the morning. I went to study hall. Sometime my sophomore year, the light went on. I had never really like to read. All of a sudden, I loved to read. It changed my life."

Gimelstob was in his first year as George Washington's coach when he recruited Webster. "The school hadn't really been recruiting the inner city in D.C.," he said Saturday. "I thought to be successful we had to recruit there. There was too much talent right on our doorstep to not give it a shot."

Darryl Webster was a bruising 6-foot-6 post player, a two-time All-Met who was getting recruiting looks from Maryland, Connecticut and Pittsburgh. When Gimelstob saw him play in a local all-star game, he decided to go after him.

"He told me I'd play, I'd help build a winner, I'd be going to a great school and I'd only be a few blocks from where my grandparents lived," Darryl Webster said. "All of that sold me."

Gimelstob had to fight to get Webster into school - even with the remedial education program, Webster was still an academic risk - and he had to keep after him constantly until the light went on.

"I remember going to his room once and he was crying," Gimelstob said. "He said, 'Coach, I don't think I can make it here.' I just told him I knew he could make it. I'm glad, for once, I was right about something."


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