James Webb III’s breakout moment and his moment of clarity came a year apart, both times with his Georgia-based family watching in the stands.
The Boise State forward’s meteoric rise has taken his family on an unexpected ride. His parents, James and Robin, have fielded messages from hundreds of new phone numbers as he has become a presence on the NBA radar.
The Webbs live 2,000 miles from Boise, but they have been there, literally and figuratively, for many of their son’s key games. They were there Nov. 28, 2014, against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., when Webb came off the bench and scored 12 points, the first of his career.
“They’ve been so supportive. This whole process wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable without them helping,” Webb said. “Having them there, no matter the outcome, they’re always there. Like that game (in Raleigh), they didn’t even know if I’d play, but seeing them, it made me feel all right.”
They were there this past Thanksgiving at the Wooden Legacy in Orange County, where more than 40 NBA scouts were credentialed. Webb averaged 11.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in three games — decent numbers, but below his standard.
“In Anaheim, I played terribly,” Webb said. “I was thinking about all the things going on around me, what could happen, everyone in my ear. But that had nothing to do on what I should be thinking about. I wasn’t having fun. I kept thinking if I had a bad game, ‘That’s it, I messed it all up.’”
Webb decided then to let his family filter the outside noise. As the attention has become greater, little has changed Webb, including his gold chains. They aren’t some flashy new addition. He’s always worn three of them, one a gift with a cross from his aunt, one a gift from his father, and the other with “RJ” on it in honor of his parents.
“It always helps me think of them, not that I’ll forget them or anything. But it’s a little confidence booster reminding me how they’re always there,” Webb said.
The Webb family will be in the house Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center when the Broncos began Mountain West Tournament play against Colorado State (9:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network). There is reason to be nostalgic, as these could be his final games at Boise State. Webb said he is intrigued by a new NCAA rule that allows players to participate in the NBA combine May 11-15 but still withdraw their names two weeks before the draft June 23.
“Dealing with it yourself would be too much,” Webb said. “It’s been crazy. You dream of this opportunity, but when you’re in the position, it can be tough. I’ll sit there and be like, ‘Man, I did ask for this, but I didn’t know it came with all this.’
“My mom is inquisitive. She’ll ask 101 questions wanting to know why someone’s calling, so they’re trying to understand it as much as they can to help me.”
MYSTERIOUS MOUNTAIN WEST
In the span of a week, Boise State went to San Diego State and beat the Mountain West leaders, and lost to cellar-dwellers San Jose State.
That’s the sort of season it has been for the Broncos.
And the entire league.
San Jose State, the 11th seed, beat the Broncos and second-seeded Fresno State this season. Fresno State is 3-4 against the top-five seeds. Boise State is the only team to beat the top-seeded Aztecs and the Bulldogs.
The first day of tournament action Wednesday provided a bit of drama, though no upsets: notably seventh-seeded UNLV’s crazy 108-102 win over 10th-seed Air Force in three overtimes in which the Rebels played with two walk-ons.
“This year is just a scramble on any given night, anybody can beat anybody,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “Some have been more consistent than others, some have played really great one night and just OK others. You don’t know who you want to play, including us. We’ve been top of the world some nights and haven’t been a very good team other nights.”
When thinking of the ups and downs, Rice said, “I’ve never been around a team like this before.”
The Broncos (20-11) get a rematch with Colorado State (17-15), the opponent in the Great Stopwatch Caper on Feb. 10, the 97-93 double-overtime loss in which Webb hit what should have been the game-winning shot at the end of the first overtime.
“We got beat twice by them,” said Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy, whose team lost in Boise 84-80 on Jan. 2.
“We’ve had some great battles with Colorado State over the years. ... I think it’s two of the more explosive offensive teams in this league,” Rice said.
DRMIC HAS SCORING RECORD IN SIGHT
Boise State’s all-time scoring record, which has stood for 23 years, could fall Thursday. Senior guard/forward Anthony Drmic’s 1,930 career points are No. 2 in school history, and he needs 15 points to pass Tanoka Beard (1989-93) for No. 1.
Drmic is averaging 18.3 points in his last six games as he tries to heal a balky left leg. Rice has mixed emotions, saying Drmic has played well in big games, but also recalling his 2-for-18 shooting in the last two games at the Wooden Legacy tournament.
“We’ve seen the bigger the moment, the better he usually is,” Rice said. “There’s also the challenge with him, if you are fortunate to play in multiple games. ... It didn’t bode well for him in November. Hopefully in March, it’s a different story.”
MW Tournament: No. 3 Boise State (20-11) vs. No. 6 Colorado State (17-15)
- When: 9:30 p.m. Thursday
- Where: Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas
- TV: CBS Sports Network
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM