With 2:51 remaining in the Harvard men’s basketball team’s third-round NCAA tournament matchup with the University of Arizona, senior Christian Webster launched a three-pointer from the right wing.
The shot clanged off the front of the rim. It didn’t matter—at least, not for the outcome of the game. The Crimson was trailing by 21. But the shot mattered to Webster.
Before he pulled up from that spot on the right wing, Webster had taken 796 shots in a Harvard uniform. Some of those shots had helped the Crimson earn its first Ivy League title back in 2011, some had helped the Crimson reach the NCAA tournament in 2012, and some had helped the Crimson win its first postseason game in 2013. But shot No. 797 mattered only because it was Webster’s last—not just the last of his Harvard career, but also, maybe, the last of his basketball career.
Since the fall of 2009—when Webster arrived in Cambridge as a member of Harvard coach Tommy Amaker’s second recruiting class—only three Harvard players have scored 1,000 career points: Jeremy Lin ’10, Keith Wright ’12, and, now, Webster.
Like Lin and Wright before him, Webster met with Amaker after his final game to plan his future. Lin, currently with the Houston Rockets, and Wright, currently with a professional club in Sweden, had told Amaker they wanted to extend their playing careers professionally.
But when Webster met with Amaker, the senior had a different attitude.
“The one thing I told him was that—with how well the season went this year and everything that we’ve accomplished and I’ve accomplished—I feel like I can be at peace with my basketball career,” Webster said.
In the weeks since the Crimson bowed out of the NCAA tournament, life has been different for Webster. The buzz surrounding the Crimson’s victory over the third-seeded University of New Mexico has died down. Fewer and fewer strangers are stopping him on the street. When his former teammates walk across the river to lift at Palmer Dixon, Webster stays on the Cambridge side of campus.
“It’s definitely really weird being without basketball in the springtime,” Webster said. “All the guys are heading down to their lifts and their workouts. I think it really hit me when they went to go work out and I didn’t. It was tough to deal with.”
But while Webster is transitioning out of one role, he seems to be fitting into another quite nicely.
“You look at that picture,” Webster said, referring to a team photo from his days playing in a Washington D.C. pee-wee league as a seven-year old, “and I’m the only one that I think is about to graduate from college right now.”
One of Webster’s former teammates in the picture was murdered. Another is in jail. The rest, Webster said, all dropped out before completing a degree.
That’s a fate Webster is now trying to help others avoid.
NOTEBOOK: Long-Range Effort Sparks OffenseWhile the Harvard men’s basketball team has excelled this season at reaching the free throw line and converting opportunities there—its accuracy of 77.1 percent at the charity stripe is good for third in the nation—the Crimson still has a ways to go when shooting from long range.
Crimson Boasts Balanced LineupSo often coach speak rings hollow. Teams talk about each person knowing his role or doing what it takes to win, while at the same time players are checking box scores and chasing personal accolades. But with the Harvard men’s basketball team, I’m beginning to believe the clichés.