Tracy Webster’s career with the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program ended more than two decades ago, yet he’s still the Badgers’ all-time leader in assists.
“That kind of surprises me,” Webster said. “I’m sure (the record) will be broken, maybe soon. I truly believe it will.”
Webster had 501 assists in only three seasons at UW. Of course, back when he was the team’s starting point guard from 1991 to ’94, the Badgers played a much more up-tempo style that was perfectly suited for Webster.
The program has changed a lot since Webster capped off a brilliant career by helping the Badgers reach the NCAA tournament in 1994, ending a 47-year drought. Any discussion of key figures in the Badgers’ rise from Big Ten Conference doormat to nationally relevant program has to include Webster, who will be inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday.
Webster is part of a star-studded 11-member class that includes Darrell Bevell (football); Brooks Bollinger (football); the late Bob Suter (men’s hockey); Brian Elliott (men’s hockey); Sara Bauer (women’s hockey); Tamara Moore (women’s basketball); Chris Solinsky (men’s cross country and track and field); the late Arlie Schardt (men’s cross country and track and field). The late Guy Lowman will be honored in the coach/staff category and UW marching band director Mike Leckrone will be honored in the special service category.
“I look at it as a big-time honor,” Webster said. “I thank all the people that helped me get to this point.”
Webster was reminded earlier this week of how one huge decision 25 years ago could have changed the course of his life.
He was almost finished with his sophomore season at UW — Webster had sat out the previous season due to Proposition 48 — when Badgers coach Steve Yoder was forced to resign. As Webster waited for Yoder’s replacement to be hired, he told reporters the chances of him returning to UW for his junior season were 50-50.
“I’ll always remember what one of my (high school) teachers said: ‘For every cloud, there’s a silver lining,’ ” said Webster, who grew up Chicago suburb of Harvey, Illinois, and was a standout at Thornton High School. “So even after it was over, when coach Yoder was gone, I tried to look at the big picture.”
UW hired Stu Jackson, and Webster stayed in Madison. Two years later, Webster and the Badgers were playing in the NCAA tournament on a team that also included Michael Finley and Rashard Griffith.
That season ended with a second-round loss to Missouri, but it will be remembered most for UW ending an NCAA tournament drought that dated to 1947. Starting with that breakthrough run, the Badgers have advanced to the NCAA tournament in 21 of the past 24 seasons, including 19 in a row.
“I don’t look at it like I helped Wisconsin get on the map, I look at it like Wisconsin is representing right now,” Webster said. “I’m always happy when those guys are playing because they try to do it the right way.”
Had Webster transferred from UW after Yoder’s departure, Webster might have never met Tim Buckley, a member of Jackson’s staff. It was Buckley who gave Webster his first NCAA Division I assistant coaching job at Ball State, setting Webster on a path that included stops at Purdue, Illinois, Kentucky, DePaul, Nebraska, Tennessee and California.
Webster, who got his start as an assistant at Verona High School and later worked at UW-Parkside, is out of the college game for the first time in almost 20 years. He and his wife, Shenetta, live in Atlanta, where Webster trains high school, college and professional athletes.
Stepping away from the grind of college athletics has given Webster a chance to take a breath and enjoy a less-hectic schedule.
“I’ll be able to celebrate anniversaries. I’ll be able to get to Thanksgiving,” he said.
“I’ll even be able to get to the ceremony on Friday because I don’t have to worry about an official recruiting visit.”
Webster’s lone regret is that his mother, Norma, won’t be there to see him get inducted. She died a few years ago.
But he’s looking forward to the weekend and is excited to catch up with his former teammate Howard Moore, a member of UW’s coaching staff.
“That’s the place,” Webster said, “that helped me grow.”
As for his assists record, Webster is more than ready to pass the baton. He said he’s even had a discussion with Travis Trice Sr., the father of UW sophomore point guard D’Mitrik Trice.
“I told him that (D’Mitrik) has got to go get that record,” Webster said. “It’s time for it to move.”