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Webber praises UM’s ‘heart,’ but appears to take swipe

The Detroit News

Former Michigan Fab Five member Chris Webber on radio seemed to take a subtle shot at Michigan while also praising the current team and the heart and emotion with which it won the Big Ten tournament on Sunday.

Webber, now a TNT analyst, appeared Monday on the Rich Eisen Show and said he’s excited about the upcoming NCAA Tournament, even for teams he would have considered during his playing days rivals like North Carolina and Duke.

But he also apparently took a jab at Michigan.

“And whether it’s a school that for some reason doesn’t embrace you and you did everything you could for them, you still look at those kids and you go, ‘Man, I cannot wait to see them guys fulfill their dreams,’ ” Webber told Eisen.

Jalen Rose, also a member of the Fab Five, has on numerous occasions said he wishes Webber would apologize for this role in the controversy with booster Ed Martin to protect the legacy of the group. In 1996, Webber was learned to have accepted cash and loans from Martin, but no other Fab Five member was implicated. Michigan decided to remove the NCAA banners from Crisler, players were barred from contact with the athletic department until May 2013 and the records were stricken.

Eisen asked Webber about the Wolverines’ tournament run under coach John Beilein, which began a day after the team’s charter skidded off the runway.

“I look at it as heart, toughness and teamwork,” Webber said. “I don’t think you can take anything away from any one of those aspects. Heart in the fact they wanted to play, that they didn’t want to think about what had just happened and be a victim. They wanted to go play. Two, toughness, the toughness that once you make the commitment you have to follow through. My father always taught me that it’s easy to make the commitment without thinking about the follow through. Well, they had to follow through. And then three, they had to let it fly, man, and play together and let all inhibitions go. That’s what you love seeing.

“I love that kid (Zak) Irvin and his toughness. Of course, you know I’ve had kids that have played on my AAU teams that are on that team right now. Seeing what (Derrick) Walton does, seeing those guys. That’s what I mean whether it’s North Carolina and the school that of course you grew up playing against or a school like Duke, you have to let that go and just love what the kids are doing and put yourself in that position.”

Webber said that’s the part that gets him excited about the tournament.

“Whether you played for the Sacramento Kings or whether you’re KG (Kevin Garnett) and you played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, we all dreamed of playing in tournaments. Well, KG skipped college but you know he did dream about going to it. Actually, he was going to come to Michigan is what he tells me. It’s fun talking with Grant Hill and all the other guys. You’re dreaming about that day. It’s really cool watching these kids, the nervousness on their face, the toughness on their face, the emotions, the body language. I get really excited about it. It’s March Madness. I’m really excited.”