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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Keegan

Toughened up, Jeff Withey ‘fabulous’

Kansas center Jeff Withey gets on the floor for a loose ball with Kansas State forward Rodney McGruder during the second half on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at Bramlage Coliseum. At right is KU guard Elijah Johnson.

Kansas center Jeff Withey gets on the floor for a loose ball with Kansas State forward Rodney McGruder during the second half on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at Bramlage Coliseum. At right is KU guard Elijah Johnson.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 59-53 victory over Kansas State on Feb. 13, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KSU coach Frank Martin

Kansas State coach Frank Martin talks to reporters following the Wildcats' 59-53 loss to Kansas on Feb. 13, 2012.

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KU vs. Kansas State

Box score

— You play basketball for Bill Self and you don’t compete hard, he’ll repay you with interest. And he’ll keep repaying you until you get tired of going through more than any physical opponent can put you through. And then you’ll start competing. You might even transform from a lamb in retreat to a charging bull.

That’s how Jeff Withey responded to the punitive Self, a football coach who dresses, smiles and sees the court like a basketball coach.

Withey went scoreless in the fall-from-ahead loss at Missouri. Since that game, he has averaged 20.3 points, 12 rebounds and 6.3 blocked shots, stringing together three dominant performances.

Thomas Robinson battled foul trouble Monday night in Bramlage Coliseum against a physical Kansas State team scrapping to relieve some NCAA Tournament bubble pressure. Players from both sides were getting smacked in the face, seeing stars and forming scars.

Withey kept plowing forward, doing what his team needed him to do. By night’s end, he fell one blocked shot short of a triple-double, totaling 18 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks in KU’s 59-53, blue-collar, black-and-blue body, victory against the Wildcats. That effort came hours after Withey was named Big 12 Player of the Week.

Withey opened a window into a recent punishment he endured in practice.

“Right before we went to Waco, I think I didn’t get a rebound,” Withey said. “He said, ‘Go touch every stair in the building.’ So I started running. Ever since then … I know coach and my teammates depend on me to play great. I picked it up. I don’t want to be running bleachers anymore. The Missouri game, I don’t want anything like that to ever happen again.”

Withey reached the conclusion that running into harm’s way in a game with teammates surrounding him beats running stairs by himself, getting humiliated in front of the guys whose approval he most desires.

“I’m serious, less than a week ago he’s touching every stair in the building because he would not try to go after the ball,” Self said. “Players are in his face going after him. All the sudden, you make a couple of baskets and get confidence. He’s been great.”

Self wasn’t the only coach marveling at Withey’s sudden emergence.

“As a coach, I root for guys to get better,” Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. “Obviously, when we’re playing against him, you’re not rooting for him. But as a fan of the game, as a guy who tries to teach kids the game, when you see a guy play with the confidence that young man is playing with, to make that improvement … That was a guy who couldn’t get in a game last year. Bill used to try to play him. He couldn’t. He would put him in the game, and he’d have to take him out.”

And now?

“Now he’s dominating the game,” Martin said. “He’s not just playing. He’s dominating Big 12 games. I don’t think there’s a big kid in the country that does what he does for his team right now.”

Aside from senior Jamar Samuels (20 points), K-State couldn’t shoot straight, but the Wildcats competed hard, defended ruggedly, brought everything it had. Withey didn’t retreat once.

“He played really good against Baylor, and he played really good against Okie State, but he was a lot better tonight,” Self said. “This was a big-boy game, and he had 18, 11 and nine on a night Thomas wasn’t Thomas. I thought he was just fabulous.”

The players tough enough to handle the coach’s high standards tend to get a lot better playing for Self and his staff, as evidenced by Robinson’s huge junior season and Tyshawn Taylor’s exceptional Big 12 play that Self referenced when asked about Withey. But as far as going from zero to 61 in three games spanning six days, Withey’s pedal-to-the-metal sprint to prominence blows the mind.

“For somebody who has kind of come out of left field, I don’t know if I can remember anybody be as dominant, to go from scoreless to now: How do you win without him?” Self said. “Such a bonus for us because Thomas trusts him, and those two should get better playing with each other as (Withey) continues to produce and take pressure off of (Robinson).”

Withey’s not done developing. Once he starts taking and making the open 15-footers — Self twice has selected him to shoot technical free throws, including in the second half Monday — he’ll become even tougher to guard on a team that already has Robinson and Taylor giving defenses fits.

This KU team is so much better than anybody could have guessed, and Withey and the guy who drove him to be tougher than anybody could have guessed deserve a great deal of the credit.

Comments

Alohahawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Congratulations again, Jeff. You're getting a lot of deserved press now. And it was great you read the riot act to the team during that time out. Way to assert yourself.

I've been confident most of the season that Withey has the best chance of anyone of getting a triple-double. He's flirted with it a number of times now and if he continues to improve over the last few regular season games, there's no reason why he can't get one (or more) before the season ends.

I have one major worry regarding Jeff. Now that he has reached this level, I hope he stays for his senior season. KU needs him to anchor the middle next year, just like TRob was needed this year.

nb4ku 2 years, 9 months ago

Not only did he read them the riot act, but then he came out of the timeout and made two great plays. That's how you back your words up and show your team that your serious. I've really enjoyed watching him gain more confindence with every game.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the season. There's something about this team that gives me a sense of confidence. I know that seems weird with this group of players and I wouldn't of said that before the season started. I just can't help but think that with everything TRob has been through that maybe it's destiny for them to hang a banner at year's end.

eastcoasthawk 2 years, 9 months ago

That was something else. The announcers are saying that Withey was getting in faces and telling them to pick it up. Then he goes out on the floor, plays like a mad man and wins us a loose ball by driving on the floor. Lead by example. Really impressive. Well done Jeff!

JBuettnerOKC 2 years, 9 months ago

That dive for the ball was ridiculous. It is a long way to the floor from seven feet up.

hawk316 2 years, 9 months ago

Excellent article, Tom!

"I picked it up. I don’t want to be running bleachers anymore. The Missouri game, I don’t want anything like that to ever happen again.”

Jeff, as the saying goes, "from your lips to God's ears." May your desire be granted!

april28 2 years, 9 months ago

Stay focused gentlemen....it's within reach.

jayhawker_97 2 years, 9 months ago

this seems familiar. we used to have bad TT, now look how he plays now. JW - another successful transformation work in the midst of the season. beautiful.. just beautiful.

:D

cuzicare 2 years, 9 months ago

I really love this team. Coming from such low pre-season expectations in the conference to where people are now talking about them as a number 1 NCAA seed, that feels good, and I'm just a fan. I love TRob, but I also love seeing Withey come alive recently. And TT (turnovers, drives, treys and all) and Conner and Travis after waiting their turns, and, and, and,,,,they're all fun to watch, I'd put them all on mention. Thanks, guys, for playing hard. Of course, gotta give the coaches, all of them, their due credit--the team doesn't do what it does without them. I love this team.

Jeffery Barrett 2 years, 9 months ago

Are you saying Withey for national player of the year? He's not even going to get Big XII player of the year. 1st team, probably.

Ron Franklin 2 years, 9 months ago

What bothers me most about AD's pub is the fact that he is surrounded by Elite Talent at all positions. TRob has carried this team all year until the talent around him developed into a true team. Not to mention the personal battles TRob is dealing with. TRob will be my POY no matter what.

Calijhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Jeff, I gotta admit. For the first half of the season, I called you "Wimpy Withey".

I'm not calling you that anymore.

jayhawker_97 2 years, 9 months ago

stay that way. call him names. punch his chest.. we want to see beastie Withey. mad Withey.

jgkojak 2 years, 9 months ago

Who would have thought we'd be in the running for a 1 seed this year?

And now saving a year of eligibility for McLemore and Traylor next year seems smart! Though... imagine what this team would look like w/those two coming off the bench?

ku_tailg8 2 years, 9 months ago

I only hope, come crunch time, Withey can play PG. He is our best free throw shooter.

rockchalk_dpu 2 years, 9 months ago

If you noticed, when K-State started to press toward the end of the game, Self brought Withey up to the half court line to catch the release pass and draw fouls. Great move by Self to adjust the press break when all we are worried about is getting the ball safely inbounds.

dw3c 2 years, 9 months ago

As mich as I do not like k-state, Frank Martin is a classy guy and a hell of a coach.

nb4ku 2 years, 9 months ago

+1--Can't help but respect the guy.

illuminatironin 2 years, 9 months ago

I don't hate myself for kind of liking him! I am glad that he is helping bring K-State to national prominence great for KS and great for the B12. Maybe with coaches like Self and Martin we will be able to put all of this re-alignment crap behind us. I know that re-alignment is is due to football. But it helps take us more serious.

Ron Franklin 2 years, 9 months ago

If you think about all the coaches in this league, you'll realize how much talent there really is. This is becoming a great conference to prep the hawks for the tourney. With the addition of Bob Huggins it adds to an already stellar coaching line up.

s6u6r6f 2 years, 9 months ago

Withey has transformed himself into a stud. He'll be a force next year, and the triple double is just a matter of time. Great job today retaking the hawktogon of doom; I love owning Manhattan. Rock chalk.

connhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

I absolutely love watching this team. I don't think we have any real shot at a national title given our inconsistency, but these kids are really fun to watch. It's been amazing seeing Thomas live up to everyone's expectations, and seeing Jeff and Tyshawn completely surpass them.

Elijah and Travis have been pretty solid contributors with a few good games each. I'm really hoping these two will "wake up" like Jeff did. I know they both have the talent.

planojayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Withey has been playing great defense and now a beast defending anyone coming anywhere close to the paint, with shot blockings and alternating shots. In the last few games, he has becoming super aggressive and also playing smart on the offensive end.

Hello Travis and especially EJ, you have been playing great on the defensive end, but you can help the team so much more by also being a bit more aggressive and playing smarter (not just chugging 3 balls, EJ) on the offensive end.

BDG1320 2 years, 9 months ago

+1. Can't believe he wasn't mentioned anywhere.

Lindsey Buscher 2 years, 9 months ago

"...Self, a football coach who dresses, smiles and sees the court like a basketball coach."

Wut?

manginodrh00lz 2 years, 9 months ago

You shouldn't rely on comic books for your education.

David Robinett 2 years, 9 months ago

Actually, I though that was a great line. It speaks to Coach Self's demand for toughness. A hallmark of his teams (including the Illinois team that beat KU in the tourney one year).

Mike Kendall 2 years, 9 months ago

+1----that's how I understood the line.

actorman 2 years, 9 months ago

Makes sense to me. I don't know what was so confusing about it, Puggy.

KUFan90 2 years, 9 months ago

Withey is outplaying T - Rob right now.

I would have bet my left nut I'd never see those words in print.

Is it time to start asking if we are really sure he comes back for his senior season? You going to try and tell me no NBA team would use a pick on him based on "potential"?

tis4tim 2 years, 9 months ago

KUFan,

I posed that exact question in another thread about yesterday's game. Interesting development in regards to Withey and his pro prospects.

I'm also wondering if his recent surge will take the luster off of Robinson and hurt his POY potential. Lately, it's been Withey that the sports networks show in pre-game, not Robinson. T-Rob isn't lacking face time, but any drop in exposure could sway the minds of the voters when it gets down to brass tacks. Still, given my choice, I'd prefer two beasts patrolling the paint come March over a POY and just some tall dude.

NJHAWK 2 years, 9 months ago

If Trob stays consistent for 40 minutes, he will most definitely be the POY. It's not the face time but Trob is lacking consistency in his game. Lately, he is taking plays after plays off, especially on the defensive end. On the offensive side, he is sped up if he is not playing at the AFH.

Robert Brock 2 years, 9 months ago

I would never have guessed that Jeff Withey would become our designated free throw shooter. Remarkable.

ardy682 2 years, 9 months ago

Jeff Withey is one of my favorites to watch on this team as of late... After all my ex and I broke up over him (She said he sucked and I said she didn't know basketball and it escalated)... Now we see who was correct and on the flip side I am spending Valentines day a lone. Happy Valentine's day Jayhawk nation...

nb4ku 2 years, 9 months ago

Sorry to hear that ardy. The good news is you saved money on a gift. Take this opportunity to rub last night's win in the face of your Wildcat friends. It will make you feel better.

Doug Merrill 2 years, 9 months ago

"The good news is you saved money on a gift."

This isn't good news, this is GREAT news.

Lesson: unless you have found "the one", break up prior to Christmas and glide until 2/15 before finding someone new. The investment of what you would have spent on gifts for Christmas and Valentines will get you that much closer to retirement.

ardy682 2 years, 9 months ago

HAHA... It seriously made me laugh out loud at work. Thanks guys.

Alohahawk 2 years, 9 months ago

My avatar friend has a sister who's single. Oops, sorry. Just joking. But welcome to single's heaven. There are advantages to both sides of that situation. :-?

actorman 2 years, 9 months ago

I prefer the term "maritally challenged." But I'm just being politically correct.

nuleafjhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Is anyone else as stoked as I am to see what Withey does in the NEXT missouri game?

planojayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

He will get more than 10 blocks on that game, and will get one of his triple doubles!

Jeffery Barrett 2 years, 9 months ago

Wow! Tell us how you really feel, Konkey! You tell 'em!!!

dtdjayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

I agree and it is incredibly frustrating to listen to over and over again during commentary no matter what game it is...right now they all love UK but we will see about that because they won't have the toughness in the tournament

Ron Franklin 2 years, 9 months ago

Well let's do something about it.

Start a petition...ha, just kidding.

We could pay for an awesome trophy to be made and have a vote for him. We could call it the Robinson Resiliancy Recognition trophy.

Janet Olin 2 years, 9 months ago

Great job, Jeff! Keep up the ferocity and high energy. Let's give Travis props for big D on McGruder as well.

RCJHGOKANSAS 2 years, 9 months ago

Really awesome to see this year's team improvement.

We can't get tickets to the Misery game but we plan on driving to Lawrence just to watch the game in a bar (we live in Des Moines). Anybody know a great place to watch the game in Lawrence?

HawkKlaw 2 years, 9 months ago

Wayne and Larry's is pretty cool. Any bar on Mass St. will be festive.

number1jayhawker 2 years, 9 months ago

23rd Street Brewery at 23rd & Kasold is a good place with good food and beverages.

Sam Constance 2 years, 9 months ago

+1 to this. 23rd Street is a great place to watch

Vittorio1224 2 years, 9 months ago

It bears repeating: Jayhawk fans cannot underestimate (and I think for the most part, we don't!) the AMAZING job Danny Manning is doing with "bigs" who come into KU merely hoping to be good, and then they leave with NBA aspirations. Rock Chalk Danny!

Jeffery Barrett 2 years, 9 months ago

Got to give Hudy a lot of the credit. He came in a couple of years ago looking like an ethiopian.

rockchalk_dpu 2 years, 9 months ago

You are right. I posted on my facebook that any big man looking to maximize his potential should consider Kansas based on the body of work D Manning has thus far and was shouted down by my friends that are Kentucky fans.

HawkKlaw 2 years, 9 months ago

KU before Withey's three game dominance = Mediocore KU with Withey dominating = A very good chance at winning the Big 12 Tournament and a decent chance at winning the NCAA Tournament

Keep it up Jeff!

At the beginning of the season, I though that our guards (+ TRob) were going to have to lead KU to greatness. I thought we were just too weak in the post, especially with Traylor and Anderson getting denied by the NCAA. Now, though, it is obvious that WIthey and TRob are the core of KU's offense. We still don't have an ounce of depth in the post, but if KU is going to do damage in March, Withey and TRob are going to have to be the main facilitators of that. It appears that they are up for the challenge.

This season has been stranger than most. That's fine by me. Rock chalk!

REHawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Congratulations, Jeff, on a dandy contribution toward that win at Bramlage. You have nailed snugly another audition for consecutive Big 12 Player of the Week. Keep a'comin', Big Fella. Just when Big 12 opponents think they have fathomed a means to derail the Jayhawk system, you have stepped up to throw a huge wrench into their preparations. Your intensity and performance certainly won the praises of Bill Self and Frank Martin yesterday. What a 3-game run!

REHawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Heck, coaching topnotch Division I hoops now appears to be much less complex than originally thought. Forget all the Xs and Os. Debunk the psychological hoopla. For our very own winning mentor, success has boiled down to two things: Step up on this treadmill, Brandon! Tromp your tennies up and down every one of those stairtreads, Jeff! Rock Chalk!

jhawkrulz 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm all for the Withey Press and he has done extremely well, but those of you second guessing TRob are missing the true beauty of what TRob is doing.

TRob everytime he goes down the court, he has one person guarding him with another shadowing him. Once the ball gets to him, there are three to four people on him. I saw many posts (including from me) that said TRob needs to learn to pass out of the double team...he has been doing that, but more importantly, TT has a second option when he goes in. JWithey isn't getting pushed around, he is finishing more (don't forget Withey got blocked like three times during that game, because he didn't finish).

In summary my rambles are to say that TRob has made Withey a better player and don't lose sight of that.

2 years, 9 months ago

+1

TRob may have recently opened things up for Withey when he isn’t even on the floor. If you noticed in the Baylor game towards the end of the first half when Robinson had to go to the bench due to foul trouble, the Bears didn’t know how to act when defending the post since their main plan was to swarm him with 2-4 defenders whenever he touched the ball down low. The rest of our team, particularly Withey, benefited from the Baylor strategy and we went on a nice run to finish the half up by three.

With Withey’s current string of successfully handling the opportunity TRob has provided him, don’t be surprised if teams start game-planning to swarm him when he touches the ball in the low post, and that will open things back up for TRob. At best, the opposition will have to pick their poison :^)

Rock Chalk 2 years, 9 months ago

I have such immense pride for Jeff, T-Rob & Tyshawn especially, but this whole team overall. Really proud of them. I just bust with happiness when I see Jeff's face after he's done something spectacular. He's working so hard, so determined, and really humble. It's a great story. Great, great job, Jeff! Keep it going, guys!

justinryman 2 years, 9 months ago

Can't believe Jeff didn't get his nose broke on the put back by Thomas. His forearm landed square a crossed his nose. Maybe the squareness saved it from being broken?

But liked to see the hustle from both guys on that play and not just assuming that the other would get it.

tauck 2 years, 9 months ago

Here is an IDEA coach Self Quit taking Withey out a the end of games!!! Leave him in for defensive purposes, and then late in the game set a pick for him, throw the inbounds pass to him, let him get fouled and then let him take the two free throws. Seems like a no brainer to me ? I realize it goes away from every game ending in-bounds play ever drawn up by a head coach, but PLEASE coach to your talents, it is what we pay you for!!! (On a side note, this is Bill Selfs best coaching job defensively by far, but the late game Withey moves are baffling).

JBuettnerOKC 2 years, 9 months ago

I was curious about this same thing last night. Was there a strategy to taking Withey out that I missed?

Mike Kendall 2 years, 9 months ago

I, too, have witnessed my share of talent---not 50 years, but 30 years---and that sequence you are referring to, Mr. Slayr---have to agree. Pretty awesome!

Mike Kendall 2 years, 9 months ago

I am sure everyone read the last three paragraphs of this article. Man, that really gets me fired up for the Post-Season! The last three paragraphs---I will use HCBS's term---really gets me juiced up!

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