Whirlwind week earns Jeff Withey national award

Kansas center Jeff Withey dunks off an alley-oop from teammate Tyshawn Taylor against Kansas State during the first half on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas center Jeff Withey dunks off an alley-oop from teammate Tyshawn Taylor against Kansas State during the first half on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kansas University junior center Jeff Withey on Tuesday was named the Oscar Robertson national player of the week as awarded by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

The honor came a day after Withey earned Big 12 player of the week honors.

“I guess ‘Withey-mania’ or whatever is sweeping the Midwest,” KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend said Tuesday on the weekly Hawk Talk radio show.

Withey, who scored 18 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked nine shots in Monday’s 59-53 victory at Kansas State, scored a career-high 25 points against Baylor and secured a career-best 20 rebounds against Oklahoma State last week.

“It helps us to have another offensive threat in there,” Townsend said. “People know that it’s a good gig playing next to Thomas (Robinson), who gets so much attention (of the defense).

“Jeff has done what he’s supposed to. I think he felt awful how he played at Missouri (zero points). His attitude changed. He found his game. I think his confidence is sky-high now,” Townsend added.

Withey, who hit six of seven free throws at K-State, has made 80 of 94 free throws for a team-leading 85.1 percent. KU coach Bill Self chose Withey to shoot a pair of technical foul shots Monday. The 7-footer converted both attempts.

“Four weeks ago, somebody got a ‘T’ and coach Self said, ‘Who shoots ‘em?’” Townsend said of technical foul shots. “I said, ‘Tyshawn (Taylor).’ Coach said, ‘Withey’s our best free-throw shooter.’ I said, ‘We can’t put a 7-footer on the line.’ Tyshawn actually made those two,” Townsend added with a laugh. “Jeff knocked down those two yesterday. He’s very good from the free-throw line. His ability to shoot free throws will make him more dangerous down the line. They’ll foul you when you grab a rebound late in games.”

Withey said it was an honor to be chosen to shoot the technical shots at KSU.

“I felt really comfortable,” he said. “Coach has enough confidence to put me there. I’ve been working on it all year, trying to get better every single day by shooting free throws. They are easy points, free points.”

Of his excellent play since the Feb. 4 game at Missouri, Withey said: “It’s been fun the last couple games. With these games back to back, I feel I’ve not had time to stop and breathe. I had to pick it up after Missouri. I never want something like that to happen again.

“It just kind of happened,” he added of his emergence. “My teammates lift me up all the time. It’s all in slow motion.”

Withey credited strength coach Andrea Hudy for improving his body over the summer as well as big man coach Danny Manning for work on technique.

“Thomas is very unselfish (with passes to Withey). That’s what’s helping make Jeff look so good,” Townsend said. “Coach Manning does an unbelievable job developing those guys. They are starting to click. I’m really happy for Jeff. He’s paid his dues. I just hope he continues this and finishes the season strong.”

Withey — he averages 9.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game — is the second KU player to be named the Oscar Robertson player of the week this season. Robinson earned the honor during the week of Dec. 11. Kansas is the only school this season to have more than one player receive the weekly honor.

Vitale lauds Self: ESPN’s Dick Vitale had this to say Tuesday on Twitter: “No one projected Kansas to be this good — my vote today 4 COACH of the Year is coach Bill Self. They lost so much from last year!”

Muhammad to visit: Shabazz Muhammad, a 6-6, 215-pound senior small forward from Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School, will attend the Feb. 25 KU-Missouri game as part of his official KU campus visit, Rivals.com reports. Muhammad is the top-rated prospect in the Class of 2012. He has visited Kentucky and Texas A&M with a visit to Duke planned in early March.

Heights sets mark: Future KU forward Perry Ellis scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to pace Wichita Heights to a 54-42 win over Bishop Carroll on Tuesday. Heights has now won a state-record 60 consecutive games. Moundridge won 59 in a row from 1990-93.