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Kobe Webster, Teddy Allen Speak on Leadership and Social Change

October 05, 2020

<p>Last week, I focused my <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Padding the Stats</a> column on two players who appeared to be emerging as leaders for this year&rsquo;s Nebraska basketball team &mdash; Kobe Webster and Teddy Allen.</p>

<p>After listening to the two of them address the media on a Zoom call, it sounds like I was on the money with that assessment.</p>

<p>&ldquo;I think it started early, when we got here in June,&rdquo; Webster said. &ldquo;As one of the seniors on the team, I try to establish myself as a leader, whether it&rsquo;s on the court or off the court &hellip; In terms of on the court, Coach Hoiberg has given me that chance to be vocal, have the opportunity to really put guys in the positions [to be successful], and obviously being a point guard, that&rsquo;s kind of just my personality. I like being able to kind of control the traffic or whatever and just make sure guys are in the right positions on the court. Being able to talk to guys, understanding how guys are taking certain things, whether I have to talk to this guy a certain way or talk to him a different way.&rdquo;</p>

<p>Webster, now a graduate transfer at Nebraska, stepped in as the starting point guard at Western Illinois as soon as he arrived on campus as a freshman. He led the Leathernecks in points and assists all three seasons and never missed a game, starting in all 85 of them. However, he didn&rsquo;t have a lot of help around him and Western Illinois didn&rsquo;t have much success as the Leathernecks won just 27 games in his three seasons. Webster has plenty of experience battling adversity, and that should serve him well in Lincoln.</p>

<p>Allen&rsquo;s dealt with plenty of adversity as well, but his college experience has been very different from Webster&rsquo;s. As a freshman at West Virginia, Allen was an offensive spark plug off the bench on a team with a veteran backcourt led by senior point guard Jevon Carter. He spent his sophomore year redshirting at Wichita State before getting expelled. Last season at Western Nebraska Community College, Allen was the clear go-to guy for the first time since he was at Boys Town and he thrived, posting monster numbers al year. All of those experiences, both positive and negative, have led him to Lincoln.</p>

<p>&ldquo;On my recruitment trail, talking with the coaches, just the role they wanted me to play as far as leading by example and being someone who could speak up,&rdquo; Allen said. &ldquo;It starts with working. I&rsquo;ve just been working, putting in the work, and I just feel like we got to a point after this summer where we were in position to be able to speak up and guys would want to listen or hear us out. Just talking with the coaches, just understanding what the team&rsquo;s going to need from me and Kobe and others, and just doing that.&rdquo;</p>

<p>Unlike Webster, vocal leadership doesn&rsquo;t come naturally to Allen. He&rsquo;s willing to put in the work to fill that role at Nebraska, however.</p>

<p>&ldquo;For me personally, I&rsquo;m more comfortable leading by example just with my play, but not everybody feels great and comfortable to speak up, and there always has to be those guys,&rdquo; Allen said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m just noticing with this group that my voice could be heard.&rdquo;</p>

<p>In late August, the Huskers recognized one way to make their voices heard off the court. In the aftermath of George Floyd&rsquo;s murder at the hands of a police officer and the wave of protests it sparked nation-wide, Fred Hoiberg was one of the first coaches at Nebraska to make a public statement in support of the kind of social change people were protesting for.</p>

<p>As part of the statement he shared on Twitter, Hoiberg wrote this:</p>

<p>&ldquo;As the head coach of incredible young black men, I know I have a job to do to help them grow on and off the court. I have told them when we are all back together in the coming days, I will have a team meeting that will allow all of us to come together to find ways to make positive change. We all have a role in this and for me I plan on doing whatever I possibly can to protect and support my players through these tragic and sad times.&rdquo;</p>

<p>From everything we&rsquo;ve heard, those were more than just empty words aimed to appease the student-athletes. Hoiberg has backed them up, with the team&rsquo;s <a href=”” target=”_blank”>demonstration</a> in August support of social and racial justice as an example of that.</p>

<p>&ldquo;We had been having meetings, usually every Wednesday after yoga, about the social issues going on in our country,&rdquo; Webster said. &ldquo;Coach Hoiberg, Coach [Armon] Gates, Coach Matt [Abdelmassih], they all kind of put it together just as a small forum for us to speak out and really learn about each other&rsquo;s experiences with social injustice. That kind of started it, and then the situation with Jacob Blake, we just felt the need &mdash; Teddy and I specifically &mdash; felt the need to let other programs on campus see us and use our platform as we did. We sat down with Coach Hoiberg and Coach Matt, typed out the statement and that was it.&rdquo;</p>

<p>Each of the players in the program as well as Hoiberg took part in the demonstration, but it was Webster and Allen who stepped forward to hammer home the message. Webster said it was a cause he felt passionately about.</p>

<p>&ldquo;It gave me the opportunity to again establish my leadership both on and off the court as someone who&rsquo;s going to be vocal and make sure that everybody&rsquo;s on the same page,&rdquo; Webster added.</p>

<p>Allen said it was an honor to speak on behalf of his teammates and the program, though being one of the faces of that demonstration wasn&rsquo;t necessarily his goal.</p>

<p>&ldquo;I wasn&rsquo;t like &lsquo;Yo, I really want to be the one saying it.&rsquo; That&rsquo;s just kind of how it worked out,&rdquo; Allen said. &ldquo;The main point is just to try to bring awareness and speak about a topic that really needs to be discussed and continually discussed, which is racial injustice. That was more of a big deal in that area to me.&rdquo;</p>

<p>Webster said the team got a lot of positive feedback around campus.</p>

<p>&ldquo;A lot of other teams have contacted me, contacted Teddy or some other players or Coach to sort of see how we did it and kind of follow our lead,&rdquo; Webster said. &ldquo;There was actually a rally that happened a week or so afterwards that was put together by a couple of different sports. I do know they had contacted myself and Teddy about that so that they were on the same page just so they could use their platform as we did.&rdquo;</p>

<p>The demonstration was the first public display of the new-look Huskers. Hoiberg and his staff flipped most of the roster again and brought in eight new players to mesh with the returners and redshirts from last year. Though they&rsquo;ve had to navigate an offseason unlike any other, Webster and Allen said the team has already developed a <a href=”” target=”_blank”>tight bond</a>.</p>

<p>&ldquo;Being here in June definitely helped; we got here earlier than most schools,&rdquo; Webster said. &ldquo;I had the chance to get to know everybody over the past three-and-a-half, four months, and that definitely helped.&rdquo;</p>

<p>Nebraska still has almost two months still before the season starts to continuing building up camaraderie, and it looks like Webster and Allen want to be the ones leading the way &mdash; on and off the court.</p>

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