Webster, Harvard gun for first Ivy League title

Penn owns 23. Princeton has 21. Cornell (four), Yale (two) and Dartmouth (two) have their share. Even Brown and Columbia have one. But there's one team since Ivy League basketball competition officially began in 1955-56 that has never captured a championship -- Harvard.

Yes, the oldest and most prestigious college in the nation, the school that epitomizes the "Ancient Eight" that make up the Ivy League, is still looking for its elusive first conference title. It didn't even win the Ivy League's predecessor, the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League, which began play in 1902.

Up next
Harvard at GW
When » Saturday, 2 p.m.
Where » Smith Center
Radio » 1500, 820 AM

So what would make Washington, D.C.-native Christian Webster want to play at a school with no basketball tradition when he had offers from teams in the Atlantic 10, Colonial Athletic Association, Patriot League and others in the Ivy?

"It was pretty much coach [Tommy] Amaker," said Webster, a graduate of Landon.

"He said he was building a team that he said was going to be the first to win a championship and this was my chance to be part of something special."

Two years later, things are going according to plan. Webster, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, is averaging 14.1 points a game, and Harvard (11-3) is thinking championship. With impressive wins over Boston College and Colorado, Harvard is ranked 49th in the nation in RPI. The only disappointment was a 65-62 loss at Michigan, the team that employed Amaker for six seasons before he came to Cambridge.

"We wanted to get that one for him," Webster said. "We had a nice lead, but we let it slip away."

When Harvard plays at George Washington on Saturday, it will be a homecoming for Webster and Amaker, a four-year starter at W.T. Woodson before an All-America career at Duke.

In fact, Webster's father, Darryl, a standout at Coolidge, played in the 1982 Capital Classic with Amaker. On Saturday, Christian Webster will play on the same Smith Center floor where his father played as a member of the Colonials from 1982 to 1986.

After last year's 21-8 performance, Harvard's first 20-win season in program history, the Crimson seemed headed back to mediocrity with the graduation of Jeremy Lin, the first player in Ivy League history to accumulate 1,450 points (1,483), 450 rebounds (487), 400 assists (406) and 200 steals (225).

But at 11-3 Harvard is on the same pace as last season.

"We knew replacing Jeremy wasn't going to be easy, but now we're more balanced," Webster said. "Our style is exactly the same. We get after it on defense. That's where everything starts for us."

And where it finishes for the Crimson this season could be historic.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com