Webb of Intrigue

July 14, 1992

Had circumstances been different, Marcus Webb feels he wouldn't be banging bodies at Brandeis this weekend, looking for a job. Instead, he'd be wondering where to invest his first million as one of the NBA's top draft picks, his lifelong dream about to become a reality.

He may still realize that dream, but it's a longshot. The 6-foot-9-inch, 260-pound bruiser has impressed the Celtics' higher-ups with his hustle, physical play and strength. Said chief scout Rick Weitzman, "he has been a lot better than any of us anticipated." So much so, that after just two nights of workouts, Webb said he already had been approached by representatives of teams in Greece and Italy.

"I told them to call my agent. I'm playing ball, he's laying the plans," Webb said.

Webb was somewhat of an unknown arriving here. He had been penciled in as the starting center last year for an Alabama team that produced two first-rounders, Robert Horry and Latrell Sprewell. He was going to be the wide-body inside and fully anticipated a productive senior year that would make him one of the top college players in the country.

Instead, he was indefinitely suspended from the squad in September, primarily, the school said, for academic reasons. His grades were OK; he just didn't get to class often enough. He was reinstated after the first semester, worked out and practiced with the team, traveled with it, but never saw any action. He then was dismissed for good in February.

Webb said he did have problems getting to class. But he also said coach Wimp Sanderson wanted to redshirt him and he would have none of it. That led to friction between the two.

Regardless, he missed the entire season. And what would have happened had he stayed on the team and progressed as he thought he would?

"Lottery," he said confidently after yesterday's workout at Brandeis. "No question about it. The best players in the conference? I would have played them like there was no tomorrow. Shaquille O'Neal? No tomorrow. Oliver Miller? No tomorrow. I wasn't about to go into the locker room after any game and say, 'if only.' I wanted to give it everything I had.

"It was really frustrating," he went on. "All summer I had worked on my game. I was a senior. I was going to dominate, dominate every big man."

Webb, who has a 5-month-old son, latched on with the Atlanta Eagles in the US Basketball League in June. Weitzman, who had put Webb on his 'People to Watch' list for this past college season (but rolls his eyes when told about the lottery prediction) then got him into camp.

It seems like an excellent mix. Webb is young, strong, eager and willing to do the dirty work inside. Celtics CEO Dave Gavitt likes Webb's physical approach. The immediate goal? Landing a spot on the Celtics team that will play later this week in New York in a tournament with the Nets, Knicks and Sixers.

Webb has athletic bloodlines. His father, George Pugh, was an All-American football player at Alabama. His cousin, Alonzo Spellman, played football at Ohio State and was a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears. At Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, Ala., he played tight end and outside linebacker and was so good that he said he was 'Bama's top football recruit.

"They tried to get me to play even after I went there to play basketball," Webb said. "I just felt there was more money in basketball. In football, you gotta give it up after five, six or seven years. Basketball, you can play a lot longer."

In three years with 'Bama, he progressed steadily, though he is probably best remembered for dislodging a basket from the backboard with a dunk against Wichita State, causing a 35-minute delay. He didn't have big numbers, but he had size, desire and was seemingly the ideal complementary player. He still thinks that's the case in his latest challenge.

"I have a great dream to be in the NBA, to take care of my boy and my mother," he went on. "I think I can make it in this league. The way I look at it, I have God-given talent and it's up to me to show Him I use it the right way."

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