Withey ready for fresh start

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jeff Withey on Sunday night jammed as much stuff as he could into a pair of suitcases.

“I’m really excited. I’m packing right now. I’ll be in Lawrence tomorrow,” Withey said in a phone conversation from Tucson, Ariz.

Withey — who on Christmas Eve announced plans to transfer from the University of Arizona to Kansas University — will make do with the bare necessities until the bulk of his belongings are shipped to town.

“I’m bringing everything I can — lots of warm clothes. I had to go shopping,” the 7-foot, 225-pound freshman center said.

“I’m actually looking forward to the snow, (but) I didn’t buy a winter coat,” added Withey, who said he’d make sure to pack his Xbox and iPod for use in the apartment he’ll be sharing with sophomore Conner Teahan.

Withey — who averaged 20.8 points, 13 rebounds, seven blocks and four assists his senior season at San Diego’s Horizon High — initially elected to stay in a warm-weather climate for college in choosing Arizona over KU and others.

He asked out of his letter of intent following the October resignation of coach Lute Olson, choosing KU over Texas, Gonzaga, Cincinnati, Indiana, San Diego and San Diego State.

“I would say I’m looking forward to a new, clean start,” said Withey, who last was in Lawrence for Late Night in the Phog his junior year of high school.

“There’s been a lot of negativity in Arizona. I’m ready to start all over and get on with my college career. I see it as a new start, a new beginning.”

Withey can start practicing immediately, but cannot play in games until the conclusion of first semester finals next December.

“I’m a little rusty,” Withey said. “I’ve been shooting a lot, playing a little bit of pickup here and there. I went back to San Diego (for a couple weeks over holidays) and worked out with my old high school coach. He pushed me, but it’s nothing like a workout with coach Manning (Danny, who works with KU’s big men).”

Withey is looking forward to going against 6-foot-11 sophomore Cole Aldrich every day.

“I hope it’ll help him playing with somebody else who is 7-foot tall,” Withey said. “He can help me out. He’s one of the best big men in college basketball.

“Hopefully I can help him by trying to play some big ‘D’ on him,” Withey added with a laugh.

Withey said he’s not too concerned about trying to bond with new teammates in coming days.

He’s already friends with one Jayhawk freshman.

“I know Travis Releford pretty well. We played in Europe together (on USA Basketball Under 18 national team). It’s a little nerve-wracking, but this is going to be my new family,” Withey said.

He has watched some of KU’s games on TV, including part of Saturday’s 75-62 loss at Michigan State.

“This year there’s a lot of freshmen and sophomores. I think it’ll be a growing year,” Withey said.

“I’m coming in with the highest expectations for the team. I just want to go in and help the guys and look forward to playing next year. I wish I could play now, but I’ll be in practice pushing the guys and hopefully we can win the Big 12.”

He said he has “heard a little bit” about the buzz of KU fans, who are enthused about the arrival of Rivals.com’s No. 36 player in the Class of 2008.

“I’ve heard a little bit, but I try to stay out of the whole thing,” he said of hype. “I have high expectations for myself. I can only come in and give it my all and hopefully help as much as I can this year.”

Today he says goodbye to his mom and dad, who will be moving to Lawrence next school year. They currently live in Tucson.

“Not too many goodbyes,” Withey said. “I mean, we’re more excited than sad.”


Little update: No decision has yet been made on the status of junior Mario Little for Tuesday’s KU-Kansas State game. The plan is for Little to practice today, then have his lower left leg X-rayed. A decision to red-shirt or continue playing in games will be made sometime before Tuesday’s tip. He has been slowed by a stress fracture in his leg as well as a broken bone in his left hand.

lNext up: KU will meet Kansas State at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Allen Fieldhouse. The Wildcats (11-4) fell to Oklahoma, 61-53, on Saturday in Manhattan. The loss snapped the Wildcats’ six-game win streak.