Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Withey makes debut

Kansas center Jeff Withey prepares to check in for the first time this season during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Jeff Withey prepares to check in for the first time this season during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Audio clips

2009 KU-Belmont

Reader poll

Which of these four freshmen do you think will increase their minutes most as the season progresses?

  • Thomas Robinson 41% 1229 votes
  • C.J. Henry 19% 586 votes
  • Jeff Withey 11% 350 votes
  • Elijah Johnson 26% 766 votes

2931 total votes.

Reader poll

Who do you believe is KU's player of the decade?

  • Sherron Collins 12% 493 votes
  • Kirk Hinrich 19% 786 votes
  • Brandon Rush 4% 187 votes
  • Nick Collison 29% 1176 votes
  • Wayne Simien 8% 336 votes
  • Drew Gooden 2% 83 votes
  • Mario Chalmers 21% 848 votes
  • Cole Aldrich 1% 58 votes
  • Other 0% 38 votes

4005 total votes.


KU vs. Belmont

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KU takes on Belmont Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Jeff Withey still isn’t sure he actually stepped foot on the Allen Fieldhouse floor during his first minutes as a Kansas University basketball player Tuesday.

“I felt like I was flying out there, to be honest,” the freshman center said following KU’s 81-51 victory over Belmont. “I couldn’t feel my legs running up and down the court. It was a good feeling.”

Withey, who sat out a full season after transferring from Arizona, finally was able to play for KU after recovering in recent weeks from a stress fracture in his right knee.

The 7-footer checked in for the first time midway through the second half Tuesday.

“I can’t explain how excited I was to just step out there and hear all the fans,” Withey said. “It was awesome.”

After receiving a standing ovation from the crowd, Withey picked up his first defensive rebound in just five seconds.

Before Tuesday, he hadn’t played in an organized game since competing in the state tournament during his senior year of high school.

“Coach (Bill) Self before every game just tells me to be ready and just be focused,” Withey said. “I think that was great advice, because you never know when you’re going to get your name called. I was just ready the entire game.”

The freshman’s first points came in the final minute, as he brought in a pass from Elijah Johnson and threw down a slam.

Withey’s final line looked like this: two points on 1-for-2 shooting with two rebounds and two fouls in six minutes.

“For the short time I was in, I felt like I did OK,” Withey said. “I wish I wouldn’t have fouled as much. I wish I would have gotten a couple blocks. But, for the most part, I felt like I did pretty well for the first game in two years.”

Added Self: “(Jeff)’s so rusty now. He’s going to be a good player, and he’s nervous. But I’m glad he got in there, and it was nice his first basket was a dunk.”

Withey admitted that a few times he was a bit lost on the court.

“I’m still trying to learn the offense and trying to get in the flow of everything,” Withey said. “Until I really get totally in sync with the team, I’ll probably just be seeing a little bit of (playing) time.”

Still, Withey believes there is a role for him on this year’s squad.

“We do have such a great team and such a deep team. I have no idea (where my minutes will come from),” Withey said. “Coach has his schemes. Every game’s different with the lineup.

“If we’re playing a bigger team, I’ll probably get a little more time. Right now, I’m just starting to finally get my feet wet.”


Tribehawk 10 years, 8 months ago

Why is Withey still learning the offense? Hasn't he been with us for a year and a half now?

ParisHawk 10 years, 8 months ago

Tribehawk, Withey went to Arizona for a semester, never played a game and I believe didn't even practice with the team from November on. He then transferred here one year ago. You must think semesters at Az are real short :)

He was eligible to practice second semester of last year, but this year has hardly practiced because of injury. I guess it's hard to learn an offense sitting down.

jaybate 10 years, 8 months ago


You will not be a plug and play, but that's okay. Good start. Feet wet. Your legs will get under you. The offense will sink in by first of February with a month of practice reps. The ticket in is to guard the post, swat and not foul for 5 minutes, then 10. Offense and 20-30 minutes comes next year. Think Sasha Kaun for now. Even rebounds are secondary. TRob will go in to rebound, when that's the main agenda. What Self needs more than anything from you now is a footer who can guard a true post, when Cole needs a blow. TRob is fouling so much, because Self is playing him out of position. He's too active for the post and doesn't know how to body without getting to handsy and fouling. A footer can get away with a little less bodying, because he's already got the reach. January is your month to catch 5-8 minutes situationally (i.e., against opponents that won't wreck your confidence), show you can guard the post. and prove you won't foul instantly on entering the game--prove this and you will get minutes.
February is your month to learn what D1 is about--stretch to ten minutes--take your first few hits and recover. We need you now to guard the post, but there's a lot of rust and no experience. March is when we will really need you ready to guard the post for a solid ten minutes. If you get there, then TRob can start filling at the 4 when we need more boarding out of the 4 than the Twins can give. Keep getting better. Think ten minutes as the goal. Think next. Temple plays zone and is rough. It would be a great time for Self to get you another five to desensitize you to violence and to feed you in the seams for your short J. UTenn is not likely a game for you yet. The pace will be furious. It will favor TRob, if TRob can keep from fouling. Think of TRob as your complement, not the guy you have to beat out. He does somethings. You do others. You guys are the composite 5 backup, just like the Twins are the composite 4 whole enchilada. Trust me. The backup at the 5 is massively crucial. Just ask anyone who remembers what Kaun did for KU has senior season, when Arthur needed his blow each half. Or when Cole went Mad Stork on Psycho T for ten in the semis. A capable back-up five that can guard a true post is the difference between KU being very good and KU being great. It is the difference between getting ahead for 30 minutes and falling behind for ten, instead of getting ahead for 30 minutes, and holding even or separating for ten. God is in the details and the back ups. Believe.

Jaminrawk 10 years, 8 months ago

He is going to be a good center for this team over the next few years. If Hudy can keep packing the pounds on hims (when has she failed really?) then he will be a monster by his senior season. He has a lot of athleticism at his height, probably from his volleyball days. We just need to keep him healthy because stress fractures on big guys can become a scary trend.

Steve Brown 10 years, 8 months ago

JW study rebounding, master it, own it. clean the glass both ends, become the black hole of rebounding, let nothing escape your web.

drink more milk + Vit D sunshine, build dem bones.

Steve Brown 10 years, 8 months ago

JB why rebound 2ndary?

his mind should be on something, gettting balls off the glass gives the kid something to work for.

jaybate 10 years, 8 months ago


First, Self will be wanting Withey to get some boards. I am just saying Self needs post defense more than rebounding, and if he were to have to choose (which he might because of Withey's lack of experience, and because of Self's immediate need for post defense), Self would probably tell Withey to focus on defending the post. Self already has a guy in TRob that can board from the 5 when subbing for Cole. What Self needs most is post defense against tall post men.

Still your question is a fair one. Why can't Jeff do both. He's a footer for cryin' out loud. :-)

Your question was one I asked throughout much of Kaun's career. Why not concentrate on rebounding, too, Sasha?

Frankly, some guys can't do everything, either because they never will be able to, because they lack the tools, or because they are not ready to yet, because they have too much to learn. Asking players in either of these two categories to try to defend the post, score and rebound is often just expecting too much.

Last season, Self basically gave up trying to get Marcus and Kieff to rebound. They were to weak, too skinny, and too unable to jump. Self realized after a while last season that asking The Morris Twins to man-up, and quit being soft on the boards was basically like asking baby birds to fly. They were physically, or mentally, ready yet. They could score a little and they could defend their positions some though. And so he decided to get the glassvaccing done largely through Cole and wait for summer and Hudy and Dance, Dance, Revolution!

But a more illuminating case was Sasha Kaun. Kaun was never a great natural rebounder the way, say, Cole is, and after Kaun blew his knee he was never going to become a rebounder who could truly control the boards the way Cole often can.

But what Kaun could do better than any big on KU was defend the post.

jaybate 10 years, 8 months ago

Still, when Darrell Arthur came to KU, it was apparent that Arthur was the most physically gifted and diversely skilled big at KU in a long time, even inspite of his goofiness. He could shoot. He could rebound. He could defend. He could run. He could rebound. He could shoot free throws.

But what quickly became apparent was that Arthur couldn't do it for 40 minutes, only about 30 on his good nights, and only 20 on his off nights. And when there was a really bruising post man, sometimes Arthur had real troubles defending the post at all, because good as he was Arthur was really a long 4 and 5 could shove him around.

Post defense is difficult if you are the shovee, instead of the shover.

Kaun was thick and could shove with the biggest and best.

Self did not hesitate to play Kaun in the post, when Arthur struggled, or needed a blow, and it did not bother Self a lick that Kaun could not get many boards. Self just schemed the defense so that guards and forwards rebounded more, while Kaun pushed his post man clear out of the lane, or clear under the basket, and sometimes even took the 4, or a 3 with him. Kaun was that strong.

jaybate 10 years, 8 months ago

Self and Kaun taught me that the one absolute necessity for a post man was to be able to defend the post, not rebound, or score. Rebounding and scoring are desirable, but defending the post is the ante to the game. Arthur got to start and play and be an impact guy, because Shady could score, rebound and defend most posts.

But the amazing thing to me always was that KU was almost as good with Kaun in the game, at least for 5-8 minute spurts, anyway, and sometimes better, because Kaun could defend the post so superbly. He was actually an improvement over Shady in post defense, though he gave up a lot in scoring and rebounding. Clearly, Shady's versatility got him the big minutes, when push came to shove, in came Sasha and not just to defend the post, but to enforce the post, if need be.

Watching two years of the Sasha and Shady show, I finally understood the primacy of good post defense. Yes, its great that Cole can rebound like a mother. Yes, its good that he can score. They are why he is a star. But what Cole had to learn to be a good enough center to get on the floor for Self was post defense.

jaybate 10 years, 8 months ago

Watch Cole on defense. He can really contain his man, and range around to help. Kaun could do this, also, though his range was more limited than Cole's. But within both their ranges, Cole and Sasha could defend their man without a lot of help, while helping others. Shady could do this, too, but when he ran into wide loads at the 5, sometimes he just couldn't handle them on his own. Enter Kaun. He didn't score, but he hamstrung the other team with post defense. Even Cole runs into Shady's lack of weight problem from time to time (e.g., Dexter at Texas). Not Kaun. Kaun was just a mountain of a man by that last year and with a good motor for short periods.

A great post defender is like having a sixth defender on the floor. He guards his man reliably and helps others in an arc of about 5-8 feet around him. No other position allows one player to help so many other players on defense. This is why great as Wilt was on offense, that is, vastly better than Bill Russell, Wilt did not truly ascend to Russell's equal, until he committed almost as obsessively to post defense, as Bill Russell had from the beginning. Russ had an underrated college coach, and a brilliant pro coach, who both understood from the git go that the greatest contribution to winning made by a great big man was always post defense first, then rebounding, and lastly scoring. A post man scoring doesn't really make his teammates better offensively. He just carries a larger load. Where a post man can really make his teammates better is on defense.

So: all of the above is a very long way of saying, Self has Cole, who is close to a do it all center. And he has TRob to come in and rebound if that is really a problem come time to substitute for Cole. And what Self does not have is the most important thing in a back-up 5 is accomplished post defense for ten minutes a game, while Cole rests.

jaybate 10 years, 8 months ago

Withey, as one board rat hammered home to me, has never played in a D1 game until Belmont. He is green wood. And because of the stress fracture, he is out of shape, and has not been on the floor learning the new offensive wrinkles added this season to last year's sets that he learned last year, and he has also not learned any of the new offenses that have been installed this year primarily to accomodate Xavier. Notice we are playing a lot less pick and roll, and a lot more high low, for reasons I cannot yet really understand. Withey learned a lot of pick'n'roll in practice last year. This year, Self in emphasizing the hi-lo, has apparently put in a lot of wrinkles to the hi-lo that are not readily apparent. He's added some ball screen offense. He's added what appears to be a bit of motion, too, but again, so much has been being tried that it is hard to be exactly sure what's going on. If its hard for us to understand, its doubly hard for Withey, who is having to learn it under fire.

Withey is going to be overwhelmed for awhile. Even though he practiced against D1 players the second half of the season, the speed of games is quite a step up. Every player has to adjust to the speed and violence of the D1 game. Xavier is so good that he can do it against the cupcakes and make it look fairly easy. But Xavier has labored against some of the better teams we have played, and X is about to start having to labor mightily now that the serious part of the schedule has been reached. Also, Withey will take some time to hard wire recognition of opposing defenses, as well as offensive choices they trigger.

Withey can only think about so much. Even late in the season his learning curve will be very steep.

But Self does not need Withey to do it all this season to take KU to the next level.

If Withey can just defend the post well for ten minutes every game, primarily against the big & tall centers, Self and KU are gold. Self knows he can send more perimeter players to the boards when Withey is in, if Withey can just defend the post. And Self knows Withey is a natural scorer with a jump shot and and the size to finish on close in feeds. So Self can free ride on his offense.

The coin of the realm for Withey is post defense.

Rebounding with technique is not necessary. His height will get him enough for now.

Dan Harris 10 years, 8 months ago

Jbate-are you done yet? just messin with you!

Mike Kendall 10 years, 8 months ago


Feel free to express yourself-just missed all my family time reading your posts (Ha, Ha)! Not short on words--but, I have to say I enjoy reading your posts--very informative! Keep it up--I'll keep reading. Rock Chalk!

melrank 10 years, 8 months ago

Cole - I don't know if he will or not but we are going to be crowded on the wing even with X leaving early and no other recruits coming in at that position.

For sure Mario is going to compete for minutes at the 3 and assuming Brady doesn't turn Pro (relax everyone, that is just a little joke given the recent spirited debate on Brady's PT) we've got serious depth at that position.

RE: Travis, I'd think we will need to fill the X/B-Rush position with an impact player offensively as we might be a little short on scoring from the perimeter like our young team was last year. So, depending on his offensive development, he's got a real chance.

However, in Self's system, there doesn't seem to be as much of a defined role for his combo guards, so the rotation for the perimeter would consist of 5 players from this group of 8: Tyshawn, Brady, Tyrel, Travis, Mario, EJ, CJ and Royce.

The only probable starter IMO would be Tyshawn. After that, there's a lot of pieces HCBS can choose from.

Not only does this leave you wondering who starts, but, more importantly, it leaves me wondering where the scoring impact will come from with X and Sherron's departures. Yes, we have great depth, but none of these remaining guys are offensive game changers RIGHT NOW. Does Tyshawn become more offensive minded? That's likely. Can EJ become more of a scoring point guard? CJ has shown some flashes of instant offense - can he score consistently during the flow of the game rather than during mop up minutes?

Pulling the string a little, looking at that group of 8, to what degree could our returning depth and talent be hindering recruiting? You'll need to be supremely talented and confident to start on the perimeter as an incoming Freshman next year.

You really want to create some unusual discussion, what if HCBS worked his late season recruiting magic and he signed a couple of top recruits and maybe even a OAD? Would we be looking at someone from that group of 8 transferring?

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