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Corey Webster: Breaking out

New Zealand Breakers star Corey Webster has never felt better on a basketball court than he does right now. After an eye-catching performance against Australia in the FIBA Oceania Championships and a month with the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, Webster has taken the NBL by storm these past few weeks. The three-time champion has been back for three games – three New Zealand wins – and is currently leading the league in scoring with an average of 25.67 points per game. “I’ve never felt this comfortable on the court before and I guess it's showing,” Webster said a day after a hard-fought victory over Adelaide. “Coming off the back of a good series with the national team and then having that stint over in the U.S. really helped boost my confidence levels.” Breakers coach Dean Vickerman is loving having Webster back. “Corey can score in so many different ways at the moment that you’re versatile in what you can do with him. It’s hard to shut him down in just one way,” Vickerman said. “Sometimes we want to just put the ball in his hands and let him create and sometimes we’ve got to make sure we’re doing a good job of screening for him off the ball.” For Webster, he’s currently seeing and feeling the game differently than he ever has before. “It kind of feels like everything is just going to work and you have supreme confidence in everything you do,” Webster explained. “It just feels like you've got more time to do things on the court. You can read the game a bit better and you can slow down while you're playing and use your burst of speed at different times to get your shot off or get away from your defender.” Vickerman believes Webster’s NBA experience has helped him in other ways too. He thinks the intensity and competitiveness of players like Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday has rubbed off on the 26-year-old Kiwi. “Just the consistency of people challenging each other, that’s what has made him tougher and stronger mentally,” Vickerman said. “I think that was the best thing for him and he’s bringing that to our practises right now. If there’s a weakness on the floor that’s been exposed, he’s the one pushing people to keep going at it. He’s become quite ruthless in those areas.” After dropping a career-high 35 points on Cam Gliddon and the Cairns Taipans last week, Vickerman set Webster the task of overcoming two other Boomers guards – Adelaide’s Adam Gibson and Melbourne’s Chris Goulding – in Round 5. “We told him: ‘Hey, these are two great challenges. There’s definitely some Kiwi Vs Aussie to it and we want to just make sure that at the end of the day you come out the best of those matchups’,” Vickerman explained. Gibson certainly made life difficult for Webster on Thursday night, allowing little separation by diligently fighting through New Zealand’s minefield of off-ball screens. But the Kiwi found a way, eventually cutting loose to nail three straight fourth-quarter triples to drag his team across the line. As for the upcoming matchup with Goulding, the league’s ‘other’ hottest player, Webster simply cannot wait. “Obviously he's a great scorer and one of the league’s best players, so I invite the challenge and I'll be ready for it,” he said. Game on.
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