Self-belief is what separates the good from the great. It’s what defines those who compete versus those who succeed.
It’s a mindset that’s typically either with you or it’s not.
Corey Webster proved in Grand Final Game 2 on Friday night, that he has self-belief in droves.
He’d been having a horror night, making just 1 of his first 12 field goal attempts. A lot of people would be down on themselves by that point and try to shy away from taking any more shots, especially in a clutch moment.
“I try not to [get down],” Webster told Downtown on the eve of Game 3.
“I try to remember that everybody has days like that in sports and you’re going to miss shots, but as a shooter you just try and stay confident and always think you’re going to make the next one, so that’s what I try to do. That’s the mindset that I try to keep.”
Still, that’s easier said than done. Unless of course, you play for the New Zealand Breakers; a team built on a culture of trust, belief and confidence in one another. Webster is acutely aware of how special that is.
“A lot of players come in, whether new imports or players from other teams and they talk about that and they talk about being at other teams and how it’s just a little bit different,” Webster explained.
“We’ve got a tight-knit group and we’ve played a lot of basketball with each other and everyone gets along well and we’ve got a great winning culture here.”
That winning culture doesn’t come overnight and it doesn’t come without certain personalities setting it and fostering it.
“We’ve built that from the past players that have come before us, so that helps mould it,” Webster said with pride.
“I think the Breakers do such a great job of bringing players through that buy into it and learn it quickly.”
So when you’re 1-12 on the night and there’s 27.3 seconds left with a one-point lead in a do-or-die Grand Final game, knowing your teammates believe in you as much as you believe in yourself is reassuring.
“That’s just our overall confidence in each other,” Webster told Downtown.
“We’ve got a great team culture. You know, we’ve been here before in the playoffs many times before, together. We’re confident in these situations and I think that always helps.”
Webster lined up in left corner for an out of bounds play. The play had been called. He knew he would probably get a pretty decent look at a three ball off this play if they ran it right and rather than worrying about whether he could finally make a shot, he focused on the task at hand.
“I wasn’t really thinking anything,” Webster explained.
“I was focusing on making a hard cut and trying to get open.”
— Corey Webster (@cwebster9) March 4, 2016
He led Jermaine Beal into the first baseline screen set by Thomas Abercrombie on the left block, had Casey Prather switch that screen where he was instantly met by a Mika Vukona screen on the other low block and fighting through that, Prather encountered Tai Wesley – a third screen! Before Matty Knight realised Prather couldn’t recover and he had to switch onto Corey, there was enough daylight for Webster to set his feet in rhythm and go through the same shooting motion that he’s practiced thousands of times before.
Game winning three pointer from Webster https://t.co/KWN3VaXQMl
— NBL (@NBL) March 4, 2016
“Luckily I got open and luckily the shot fell,” Webster told Downtown.
Luck had nothing to do with it.
The difference between the confidence of a shooter and the confidence of a great shooter is that confidence never wavers for the greats. They don’t rely on luck. They rely on the countless hours spent in the gym honing their craft. They trust that their mental strength will allow them to succeed when they need it most.
Corey Webster is a great shooter. It’s the reason both the Indiana Pacers and New Orleans Pelicans gave him a look last year. It’s why he gave the Boomers fits at Rod Laver Arena last August and it’s the reason why that shot fell on Friday night.
That’s right, luck had nothing to do with it and Webster knew it. The moment it left his hand, as most shooters do, he sensed this one, even with the extra arc to get it over Knight, was good.
“Yeah it felt good to be honest as soon as it left my hand,” Webster admitted.
“But in saying that, a couple of the shots during the night felt good too and a couple of them didn’t drop, so I was happy that one dropped.”
Breakers Head Coach Dean Vickerman, was not surprised when asked about Webster’s cojones in the post-game press conference.
“That’s him,” Vickerman said.
“He can miss ten shots and still maintain that confidence and that’s something that not everybody can do. Some people would be shot by that time, but he always thinks the next one is going and that’s a great two guard.”
Cairns Taipans’ point guard Shaun Bruce tended to agree about Corey’s …. errr …. fortitude afterwards.
Breakers Captain Mika Vukona has seen teammates struggle before and knows that at some point the greats will lift.
“You gotta look at the percentages sometimes,” Vukona said about Webster post-game.
“When you finally put it up it’s going to go in sooner or later. It worked out well for us tonight.”
Vukona knows he doesn’t need to worry too much about Webster’s mindset when he’s struggling. He might have a quiet word of encouragement, but that’s what he does routinely no matter the scenario.
“You can’t really say too much cos you don’t want to get into his head,” Vukona explained.
“You’ve just gotta keep encouraging him and he does a pretty good job of blowing away the last shot and going for the next one.”
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right ….
That team culture is such that they all believe their teammates will succeed, but more importantly that the team will succeed. Whether it’s Webster or Ced Jackson struggling from the perimeter it doesn’t matter. Abercrombie or Wesley can pick up the slack. Ruben Te Rangi can come in and make some plays as he did in Game 2.
And if one of them is not hitting, then chances are Jackson or Webster will carry the load for a while. That confidence and trust is a rare thing for a team and to build it, you need players like Webster who have supreme self-belief.
“That’s what shooters do …. they have no conscience,” Vukona told Sky Sports right after the game.
“That’s what we need him for.”
Game 3 is at possibly the toughest place to play on the road in the NBL. It’s winner take all and after that huge shot, Webster is expected to bounce back. Whether he needs it or not, does a shot like that give him some extra confidence heading back into the Jungle in Perth?
“Yeah I think it does,” Webster admitted.
“Try to ride the momentum of making that last shot, but it’s a new game, it’s a new day. You know my mindset never really changes and my confidence doesn’t change. Even though I didn’t have the shooting night that I wanted to have, I’m going to have 100% confidence in myself and my teammates [in Game 3], that we’re going to get the job done.”
He thinks he can ….. is he right? We’re about to find out.