It took moving more than 500 miles, overcoming a plethora of off-the-court issues and leading a team often dismissed as an afterthought, but Madison High School’s Jakwon Webb has made a name for himself in Northeast Nebraska and completed quite the turnaround to do so.
“I definitely know I have never coached a player that has improved this much from freshman year to senior year,” Madison coach Dan Fuhs said. “As a basketball player, but also as a person.”
Webb moved from Chicago to Madison in middle school to evade violence he dealt with and focus on getting better at the sport he loves most. Fuhs first met him at a tournament in Clearwater, where he presented a great deal of athleticism but raw basketball skills.
“My freshman and sophomore year, eighth grade I had no jump shot. I couldn’t make nothing at all,” Webb said. “I just had a layup package and (Fuhs) tried to help my jump shot. It’s still pretty ugly, but it gets the job done.”
Although his skills began to steadily improve upon his arrival in Madison, Fuhs soon realized that there were more issues that required fine tuning.
A mix of academics, attendance and anger held Webb back from reaching the heights he knew he could early in his high school career. There were times when he struggled to find a ride to school and sometimes stayed home to take care of his mother whenever she was sick.
“My mom has brain damage and had surgery, and basketball is the only thing I like to do when I’m sad, injured, tired, bored, etc.,” Webb said.
When he was involved in school, he struggled to keep up with the workload and was even kicked off the junior varsity team his sophomore year for poor grades. When he was able to play, he would often get into yelling matches after games and often with referees, which earned him his share of technical fouls.
Because of these issues and more, Webb didn’t play a minute of varsity basketball in his first two years at Madison. In his junior year, Fuhs sat him down for a meeting that he hoped would give Webb the fire he needed to get over the hump.
“I created a Google Doc with his picture at the top with the quote ‘Dreams don’t work unless you do,’ ” he said. “I listed his class attendance and grades in a table and told him if they weren’t up by the season, his basketball career was over.”
Since then, Webb has responded in a way the Madison coach has never seen before. His anger issues began to subside, he passed every class in his junior and senior years and he went on to average a career-best 17.4 points per game in his senior season.
“It’s a big credit to him because he probably has overcome more adversity than maybe any player I’ve coached,” Fuhs said. “He not only became a really good basketball player for us, but he really became a leader of the school.”
Such leadership came in handy for the Dragons in games, where they often struggled. The team finished a combined 8-35 over the past two seasons, including a 15-game losing streak to end Webb’s high school career.
In games, he would often play as if the team had to win by halftime, leaving him exhausted by then as a result. However, his efforts did not go unnoticed by his teammates.
“I think the team would just look at me sitting on the floor in the locker room and decide to step it up a little bit,” he said. “But the whole team is good at keeping their cool for the most part so there really wasn’t anything to be said. We’d just try to play hard the whole game.”
Webb intended to play at the college level but would face an uphill battle in doing so. He never played for any AAU teams due to a lack of financial resources and didn’t appear on anyone’s radar until his senior year.
“I’m always down to ball up and I wasn’t on AAU teams,” Webb said, “but I did do summer league with the school with Mr. Fuhs and practice every day in the summer with Allen Beery, Brenden Waugh and Hayden Drozd.”
After Fuhs created highlight videos and Leo Gonzalez, Webb’s mentor, utilized his connections, the former Dragon was able to walk on at Northeast Community College, where he’ll start playing in the fall.
Before that, Fuhs and Webb will have one final task of leading the Light team to a win at the Northeast Nebraska all-star boys basketball game on Friday, June 18. Fuhs is one of two coaches on the squad, with the other being Joe Hesse of Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family, a close friend of his. Webb will be playing alongside the likes of Lucas Vogt of Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur Northeast and Christian Mickelson of Norfolk Catholic.
“(Jakwon)’s such a quality basketball player, but he’s a more quality human,” Fuhs said about Webb’s selection to the all-star game. “Just to see how he has developed as a person to be rewarded with the all-star game, I’m just happy I get to be along for his ride so it’s really all about him.”
With one last game in a Madison uniform and his first game on the campus he’ll call home in August still ahead, Webb wants to take in the contest for what it is, a chance to compete with the best players in the area and enjoy himself.
“I just want to go and play with good players and play a good game of basketball and have fun,” he said.
Northeast Nebraska all-star boys basketball game
After being canceled a year ago because of COVID-19, the Northeast Nebraska all-star boys basketball game returns for its 37th installment this Friday, June 18.
The Light team takes on the Dark team in a game that includes six players that appeared in state tournaments and seven who were selected to the Daily News’s Elite 8.
The Light team is led by Dan Fuhs of Madison and Joe Hesse of Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family, who led his team to a Class D1 title in March. The Dark team is led by Joe Wendte of Wakefield and Kenny Blank of Lutheran high Northeast.
The game tips off at 8 p.m. at the Cox Activities Center on the campus of Northeast Community College.
Light: Jakwon Webb, Madison; Lucas Vogt, BRLD; Ryan Kramer, Boone Central; Christian Mickelson, Norfolk Catholic; Graysen Schultze, Osmond; Jaxon Wietfeld, North Bend Central; Weston Graham, Twin River; Payton Frederick, Battle Creek; Cael Hartung, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge; Bryar Bennett, Ponca.
Coaches: Joe Hesse, Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family; Dan Fuhs, Madison.
Dark: Blake Brown, Wakefield; Justin Erb, Wakefield; Grant Colligan, Lutheran High Northeast; Gunnar Ray, Oakland-Craig; Myles Thoene, Hartington Cedar Catholic; Kaden Sheridan, Walthill; Jalen Merrick, Walthill; Dawson Watts, Pierce; Kallan Herman, Norfolk; Anthony Haberman, Wynot.
Coaches: Joe Wendte, Wakefield; Kenny Blank, Lutheran High Northeast.