Jeff Withey starts his story with the good news: During two-on-two drills a week and a half ago, he blocked six-time NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire on a shot attempt.
So what happened after that?
“He went back and then he hit a jumper on me,” Withey said with a laugh. “But, yeah, I got him once.”
Withey, Kansas University’s senior center, learned quite a bit from trying to defend the New York Knicks’ star during Stoudemire’s Skills Academy in Chicago, which ran June 21-23.
“I was amazed how quick he is,” Withey said. “He’s not that much bigger than everybody else. He’s just extremely fast. I think that’s the difference between the NBA and college is just quickness.”
Withey’s biggest takeaway from the weekend was realizing which skills he needs to develop the most.
For the first two days, the big men primarily went through NBA-type workouts, which included focus on their face-up games in the post.
“Everything is so much further away from the basket than you’re used to,” Withey said. “(It’s) definitely getting that mind-set of, if you do catch it out, attack the rim as soon as possible.”
Making it even harder to concentrate was the setting. Each day during the pair of two-hour sessions, at least 20 NBA scouts were in attendance to get a look at some of next year’s top pro prospects.
“It’s definitely nerve-wracking, because they’re just down there writing stuff down. You want to know what they’re writing down,” Withey said. “It was a good experience for sure. It was definitely a good way to show your talent.”
Quite a few players were trying to do the same thing during the Saturday scrimmage, which made it more difficult for Withey to stand out.
“Whenever somebody has the ball, they want to shoot. You just have to get offensive rebounds if you want to score,” Withey said. “I felt like I did pretty well. Definitely good defensively. Offensively, I hit open jumpers. I did what I could.”
Last year at the Stoudemire Skills Academy scrimmage, former Kansas forward Thomas Robinson received a lot of attention after putting down a one-handed, alley-oop dunk off a feed from Scoop Jardine.
Though it didn’t receive the same Twitter buzz, Withey’s highlight came when trying to prevent a fast-break bucket.
“They went up to try to dunk it, and I blocked it. It hit the backboard and flew all the way to half-court,” Withey said with a smile. “Everybody was just like, ‘Ooh. Aah.’ It was pretty cool.”
Withey helped as a high-school counselor at the event with 13 other college big men, including Duke’s Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas.
Before he battled him in drills, Stoudemire approached Withey, telling him that he’d played well in the NCAA championship game before wishing him luck for the upcoming season.
“You don’t realize ... everybody watches those games,” Withey said. “It’s definitely cool to hear something like that from somebody that you look up to.”
Withey will be picking up more NBA instruction soon, as Sunday he accepted an invitation to the upcoming LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas.
The camp, which runs Friday through Monday, features skill-development work and competition for the top 20 college basketball players in the country.