When Mike Brown, a 6-foot-9 center, selected George Washington University over such Eastern basketball notables as Syracuse, Rutgers, Iona and Villanova two years ago, Troy Webster, his high school teammate, couldn't believe it.
"I wondered why GW, of all schools," said Webster, a year behind Brown at Clifford Scott High School in Newark, N.J. "I just wondered if GW was the right school for him. He could have gone anywhere.
"I didn't see Mike again until last season, when GW came up to play Rutgers. The guards didn't shoot that well and GW lost (51-45). I was recruited by the same schools that went after Mike but after that game, I just felt my friend needed some help. So I came to GW."
Brown was among the first to welcome his friend, who averaged 29 points a game his senior year of high school. In three years, Webster and Brown lost only five games in high school, three of the losses coming in state playoff games.
"I didn't try to influence him. When he came for a visit, I showed him the school on an ordinary day," Brown said. "I told him he could come here and play because we needed help at the guard spot. I've played with Troy three years in high school and every summer. I knew what he could do."
Last season, Brown averaged 15.6 points and was rookie of the year in the Eastern Eight Conference. Now, Webster has done more than anyone hoped for. After 15 games, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound freshman leads the team in scoring (17.9), minutes played (547), free throw percentage (81 percent) and steals (23), and is third in assists (29) and rebounding (4.0).
Webster had a season high of 27 points against Holy Cross last week and scored the game-winning basket against American, which had just upset Georgetown. In his last three games, Webster has scored 19, 27 and 25 points.
"I got a chance to play here and I feel I'm contributing," said Webster, selected Atlantic 10 Conference rookie of the week three times in the first six weeks. "I've fit in pretty good and having Mike around is a big plus.
"The coach (Gerry Gimelstob) has worked with me on certain parts of my game and I've seen a big difference already. One thing about college ball--you can't let down because you see good players every time you go out. You have to do your best all the time."
No one is sure what Webster does best. Gimelstob says the extroverted, free-spirited Webster is a natural leader.
"He has that leadership quality," Gimelstob said. "If Don Baylor hit 36 home runs and Reggie (Jackson) hit 36, Reggie would get the most recognition because he has that charisma. Troy is that type of player. He gives the players confidence and us instant credibility on the court. He feels he can win."
Recently, Webster and Brown worked a play that can't be found in the Colonials' offensive playbook. Webster was en route to scoring on a breakaway when he lobbed the ball backwards to Brown, who was trailing the play. Brown caught the lob and dunked easily.
"We worked that play a lot in high school," said Webster. "I didn't have to tell him I was going to do that. I just knew he was back there."
Webster is a bit disturbed the Colonials are 8-7 at this point.
"We're a lot better than that," said Webster. "It's been a mistake here, a turnover there, some missed free throws at the wrong time. Our offense isn't the problem because we can score points. We need to work harder on defense."
Webster and his teammates have played pretty well in their last three games, beating Temple, 58-54, at the Palestra and Holy Cross, 74-68, and losing to Penn State, 75-72, Saturday.
"We had been on the road forever," Webster said. "We wanted to win the Temple game before we came home."
As well as Webster has done, he doesn't want praise--or criticism--merely because he is playing his first year of college basketball. "I know they say freshmen lack maturity," he said. "That's true in some cases. But if I have a bad game, don't say it's because I'm a freshman. Just say I had a bad game. That's an excuse I won't use. I don't want to be labeled as a freshman player--just a player. I'm just starting here and I'm going to work to be a good player, period."