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Tall Blacks teen signs with University of Nebraska

By Grant Chapman

Published: 3:19PM Thursday August 23, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

  • Tai Webster (Source: Photosport)
    Tai Webster - Source: Photosport

Tall Blacks sensation Tai Webster has committed to a scholarship at the University of Nebraska from next year.

Webster (17) became one of the youngest to ever play for the NZ national men's team this year, when he contested the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela, quickly moving into the starting line-up during warm-up games.

Initially viewed as a development opportunity for the teenager, the campaign quickly became his coming-out party after he scored 18 points against Greece en route to Caracas, then rattled on 21 points in a win over Angola at the OQT.

Webster had already been on the US college radar after helping New Zealand capture the inaugural FIBA 3x3 Youth World Championship title in Italy last year, but his performance with the Tall Blacks rocketed him up the scouting charts and caused the Huskers some anxiety.

Australian-born Nebraska assistant Chris Harriman had previously lured Tall Blacks forward Rob Loe to St Louis University and had been courting Webster for a while. Suddenly, he faced competition for the young Kiwi's signature, but was relieved when the recruit committed this week.

"This is a definite coup for the Huskers," ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla told the Lincoln Journal Star. "I'd be shocked if there are 25 better 17-year-old players in the States than this kid."

Fraschilla had watched footage of Webster's outings in Venezuela and was impressed with what he saw.

"You're talking about some really great teams - some high-level NBA types, European professional players. The young man acquitted himself well, really well."

Webster will become the third member of his family to play college basketball. American-born dad Tony attended University of Hawaii, while older brother Corey went to Division II Lambuth University, before returning home to play for the NZ Breakers.

Currently attending Westlake Boys' High School, he's expected to visit Nebraska in November and begin his scholarship in 12 months.

He'll join a programme in rebuilding mode. The Huskers were a disappointing 12-18 last season, including 4-14 in the Big Ten conference. Coach Kenneth "Doc" Sadler was fired after six seasons in charge and replaced with former Colorado State head coach Tim Miles.

They haven't played in the national college tournament since 1998 and have never progressed past the first round in six appearances