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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Keegan

Jeff Withey working toward shot at NBA

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— Google “David Stern” and “smug” and 238,000 results pop up in 0.27 seconds. That’s the price the NBA commissioner pays for all that exposure he gets announcing the first-round draft choices and for being, well, smug.

When Stern announced, “With the 11th pick in the 2012 NBA draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select Meyers Leonard from the University of Illinois,” my mind went instantly to Jeff Withey: Could he have gone in that spot had he decided to skip his final season at Kansas? I wonder if Withey’s mind went there at that instant, too, as he watched the draft from KU coach Bill Self’s house.

“No,” Withey said after working as a counselor at Cole Aldrich’s camp in the Olathe Northwest High gymnasium. “I knew he was going to go pretty high, actually. I’m happy with my decision.”

That’s appropriate. By returning to Kansas, Withey doesn’t have to wonder whether he’ll play. As long as he stays out of foul trouble, he’ll get 30 minutes a game, get showered with the worship of Allen Fieldhouse spectators, earn his degree and improve his game.

No telling where Withey would have been drafted, but it’s difficult to imagine he could have enjoyed next season as much in the NBA as he will playing for his school, a veteran on a team sporting eight newcomers.

“The draft was kind of a gamble,” Withey said. “Perry Jones went pretty late and Tyler Zeller. It was just a weird draft, and I’m happy I came back. I get to prove to everybody one more year that I deserve to be there, and I’m going to make the most of it.”

One way he’ll do that is by expanding his offensive repertoire, becoming more difficult to guard, extending the range on his jumper.

“It’s something I’ve been working on this whole summer,” Withey said. “That trail shot (on the break), last year, T-Rob hit it. The year before that, the twins. The year before that, Cole, so it’s definitely in our system.”

All four of those players became lottery picks, and all four were threats to score from the blocks and the perimeter by the time they left the program.

“If I can knock down that 15-footer, that definitely puts more pressure on the defense,” Withey said. “They can’t sag off and double-team the post. It’s just another threat.”

Withey had a .795 accuracy rate from the free-throw line last season, so it’s not a question of his shooting touch.

“It’s all about confidence,” he said. “Just catch the ball, and you’re not thinking twice, just shoot it. I’ve gotten a lot better in pick-up and practice. I’m definitely happy with that, and I’m going to keep on working to make it automatic.”

Thomas Robinson extended the range on his jumper during his third and final season of college basketball. Once defenses responded to that, he added the wrinkle of pump-faking and driving to the hoop. At 7-foot-1, Withey’s not as close to the ground, so that move won’t be as easy for him to develop, but he said he’ll try to perfect it.

Withey averaged 9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks (fourth in the nation) as a junior, when Robinson and guard Tyshawn Taylor were the primary scorers.

During a three-game, six-day stretch in February against Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, an angry, motivated, ultra-aggressive Withey averaged 20.3 points, 12 rebounds and 6.3 blocks, and then returned to previous levels of production. The ball will come his way more consistently this season.

“My role is going to change dramatically,” he said, “from not having to worry about scoring to being one of the top three scorers on the team, so it’s definitely going to be a fun experience. In high school, I scored 25 a game, so just getting that confidence back will be big.”

One of the nation’s most improved college basketball players last season, Withey hasn’t come close to reaching his ceiling. He’ll get closer and closer as his final season progresses, and he’ll move higher and higher in the draft.

Comments

Steve Brown 1 year, 9 months ago

This time last year I predicted 19 w before post season KC tournament. Wrong! If you had said we will win the conference and make final four, I would have asked what two new player transfers arrived. Wrong again.

What I too often forget; talent + experience + coaching + rock chalk chant = the right to earn championships, not once in a while but every season.

West Virgina, TCU take a number get in line, welcome to Kansas basketball.

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Fortesque Beagleton 1 year, 9 months ago

Anybody remember that three game stretch following the first Mizzou game? Withey made T-Rob and AD look like the second and third best players in the game. We all know it's in him. Now is the time to let it out.

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yovoy 1 year, 9 months ago

I've been thinking about the MSU game: anyone think that we might be able to just "run" past them? I know it's not 'characteristic' of OurSelf (esp at that time of the season), but something odd like that could be the ticket.

If we are getting up and down, getting points in transition, it won't be as easy for them to smashmouth us. The BabyHawks could get a little cushion that way, and make Izzo's boys play a bit out of their comfort zone.

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Lance Hobson 1 year, 9 months ago

Most blocks in an NCAA tourney, that is something. Damn he was good.

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illuminatironin 1 year, 9 months ago

I was happy to hear Withey say while he was at one of the camps he realized he needed to speed up his game and get to the hole faster for his dunks.

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jaybate 1 year, 9 months ago

And how the devil did I forget to mention Norm Roberts in the skulling sessions?

Norm Roberts is a smart cookie. We lost alot with Danny leaving, but we got alot with Norm.

Norm Roberts and Bill put together some smart, innovative teams at Tulsa and Illinois and Norm was around when Simien turned from great potential to solid gold and money in the paint. And if Jeff Withey were open to Norm's NYC street smarts, Jeff could get alot better just from that. A player can learn a lot from any good coach, if he will listen. If Norm can coach Wayne Simien over the hump, he can coach Jeff Withey over it too.

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jaybate 1 year, 9 months ago

REHawk, thanks for your response. You get my juices flowing and its still July!!!!

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OSUjayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

I am very excited about Withey coming back. I think we'd all agree that his talents have yet to be fully developed and tapped, but I really believe that by the end of this year Withey will not only be ready for the NBA, but will be have T. Rob type discussions about tournament MVP should our young 'hawks mature enough over the course of the season to make a solid run.

One of my favorite things about KU - we ALWAYS have a shot!

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REHawk 1 year, 9 months ago

So many huge IFS seem always to rear their puzzling heads during this stage of the offseason. The state of EJ's knee might be the biggest concern of all, as this squad goes through the gelling process prior to January league play. That along with questions regarding the 4 position seem to be the two major areas for best hopes. I feel confident that BenMac will lunge from the gate as a ready bigtime contributor. Though less confident about the quick development of Perry Ellis, I foresee enough of a supporting cast at the 4 to relieve him from the level of expectations with which Marcus was faced during his freshman campaign. Perry has arrrived at Kansas with a stronger h.s. resumee than either of the twins. He will have earned the opportunity to travel to Europe with his team, gleaning benefit of summer play for which the twins were ineligible. And I would like to think that he left his airsoft armament in the closet of his home in Wichita, or perhaps donated it to adolescent cousins before he packed necessary equipment for life in Jayhawk Towers. If the likes of Ratzo Izzo don't lure us into banging and thumping battles this season, I look forward to a very different style of play than we have seen on previous Bill Self squads at KU. Outside of occasional quick slashing, I really really hope to see high percentage shooting from 13' and beyond by March.

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jaybate 1 year, 9 months ago

Part 5

This, Mr. Phelps, and your Impossible Missions force, is what has to happen for Self Ball to take the next nonlinear leap in "getting better."

It may be time for Bill to go down and go fishing with Eddie on Grand Lake of the Cherokees.

There are still bigger fish to fry, more getting better to do, with the Tumble Weed Buddhism approach to college basketball on offense, anyway.

Eddie?

Could you have Seanie scoot the Ranger over to the marina and gas it up. This may take a full day of trolling to work out.

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jaybate 1 year, 9 months ago

Part 4

Marcus Morris is the only guy that was put in this position as a freshman. And if you recall, Marcus, though he showed signs of being able to guard his position from early on, struggled mightily until mid season. And even then he got smoked frequently. By the end of the freshman season, Marcus had transformed into a credible garbage man 4 who could get his 6-8 boards and scavenge 8-9 ppg. This was okay, because Self decided to play through Sherron outside (15 FTAs per game) and Cole inside for the rest, while Brady shot open look treys at 40 percent.

Is it realistic to think that Perry is good enough to exceed what Marcus did as a freshman? Is it realistic to expect Perry to become a go to guy from the start, so that Jeff can focus on defense and swatting, and only have to ramp up his scoring a little? Based on recruiting reputation, I suppose it is. Perry was considered one of the very best players in the country his last season in high school, probably significantly higher ranked than Marcus. I don't know. Freshman like Perry at UK jump in and move mountains. But they seem to have a lot less to learn in Cal's system. Self's play book is a thousand pages. Cal's seem to be skip, skip, dribble drive, dunk.

So regarding Perry, as regarding EJ outside, I see some serious risks about the feasibility of your forecast for how Self will try to play his first five chess pieces and the likely results.

On the other hand, your approach seems the most logical way, and so the most probable way for Self to try to fit the pieces together.

My guess is that Bill Self and Joe, Kurtis and Doc are skulling big time to figure out a way to play the High-Low that lets BenMac and Travis become frequent scoring threats without clogging things up inside for the two bigs. This has for the last several seasons been the only enduring, pesky to solve problem with Self's high-low. Its great for playing a down the middle game with a PG and a post as first and second options. Its also great if you want to turn the game over to the perimeter guys and spread scoring around among them, and let the bigs just focus on put backs. But so far, anyway, Self has not been able to find out how to have his cake and eat it, too, with the high-low. He has not been able to figure a way to get the wings penetrating without clogging up the middle for the two bigs.

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jaybate 1 year, 9 months ago

Part 3

IMHO Tyshawn had one of the greatest seasons a KU PG has ever had. The entire season he was able to get to the rim, or the FT line, almost at will. For a large part of the season, he was probably the best trey shooting PG in the country (i.e., he was shooting 45-50% from trey for about two months at one stretch). The only reason his season is not referred to as unparalleled is that he finally had a long deep slump from trey down the stretch. This is what EJ has to exceed, or at least equal for your critical assumption about KU's perimeter scoring to be valid.

I want to believe EJ can have that kind of a season. EJ healthy is likely to be the first, or second, most extraordinarily athletic tall PG KU has ever had. He is, like Tyrell Reed, such a good natural shooter that he can even shoot in the mid 30s percentage range on a bad wheel. If he were healthy, he could easily shoot 40%m from trey as a PG and so smoke even Tyshawn's great shooting season last year. But will he be healthy? If he were 100%, then I think there would be a reasonable chance he could uncork a great season, as Tyshawn did. But there is a difference between EJ and Tyshawn. Tyshawn was good enough to start for four seasons. EJ has been a late bloomer. It is a lot to ask, even of a great natural athlete, as EJ obviously is, to equal, or exceed, what Tyshawn did last season, when EJ is only starting his first season as a full time, starting D1 PG. If anyone could pull it off, it would be EJ, but I just don't think it would be fair to him to expect him to uncork something like that from the first game. Whatever, it will be one of the great and exciting challenges to watch a great KU athlete try to rise to meet. Go, EJ, go!!!!

Next, let's consider your critical assumption about Perry Ellis.

Perry has to become a credible Bill Self Ball power forward capable of 12/6 plus defense, and be able to take enough heat off Withey to let Jeff continue to focus on defense, even as Jeff amps his scoring up to 12-15 ppg as a senior.

This is a taaaaaaaall order.

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jaybate 1 year, 9 months ago

Part 2

Regarding Assumption A: BenMac should make us way better on the drive and from 3 than EJ was at the 2 last season, because of EJ's knee injury. Travis should be better at the 3 on the drive and from trey, because he was badly injured last season. So far so good for Assumption A. Now to EJ. EJ has to outperform Tyshawn from the 1 for us to be better there. Much of this depends on whether EJ recovers from his injury. EJ has taken a full three months to rehab from a reputed scope. Tyshawn took a week to recover and he played immediately.

EJ Knee Inference 1: EJ had a much, more complicated and potentially more serious knee injury than Tyshawn had.

EJ Knee Inference 2: They didn't operate on it last season, because the doctor's knew it was going to take the kind of cuts that would require a couple of months to recover from.

EJ Knee Inference 3: EJ's knee injury was serious, even though he could and did play on it. Conclusion:

EJ Knee Inference Conclusion: There is significant possibility that he may not ever be 100%, in which case he cannot hope to match Tyshawn's spectacular season last year either on the drive, or from Trey. But there is a significant possibility, maybe even a probability, that he will recover 100 percent. If he recovers fully, is it reasonable to expect that he will have a better season than Tyshawn had?

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jaybate 1 year, 9 months ago

"Looking at REHawk's Critical Assumptions, or Seanie Would You Gas Up the Ranger for Eddie and Bill to Go Trolling?"

Part 1

REHawk, your take above seems the clearest, most distilled forecast of how Self might use his first five.

So: I decided to dig in and analyse your critical assumptions.

Two seem paramount:

a) this year's perimeter scoring, especially outside shooting percentage, will improve significantly over last year and so reduce the wing doubling of Jeff that Thomas endured; and

b) Perry ( some combination of Perry and someone) can deliver at the 4 at a level of a 12/6 guy, while guarding his position at Self grade, so as to keep guys from doubling Jeff full time with a big, and making them pay when they do.

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actorman 1 year, 9 months ago

"Google 'David Stern' and 'smug' and 238,000 results pop up in 0.27 seconds."

Does anyone else find it strange that Keegan would misspell his own name as "David Stern?"

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Beate Williams 1 year, 9 months ago

My personal opinion is that Coach Self establishes the foundation for all the players, be they PG, SG, PF or Centers. I believe that with that foundation the assistant coaches can then do their speacialty, e.g., Danny with the big man can develop the moves, the techniques the position requires to be successful. I say this in an effort to dismiss any idea that because Danny is gone the big men will not get the teaching they need to be vicious in the middle. Everyone who has watched Self for any period of time realizes that he teaches toughness, that is not going to change now that Danny is gone. A great deal of the execution of that toughness come from within the player and if the player does not have the desire to go to the next level, that player will not execute.

I believe Jeff has seen what it takes and I believe Jeff wants it, therefore, I look for a very good year from Jeff and it will probably be more impressive than a great many people think because of all the weapons he will have around him. This team has weapons, including; speed, shooters, bangers, leepers, defenders, experience, youth, Self and we must not forget how significant Hudy is to all of this.

I'm sort of rambling here, but I really believe Jeff will have an outstanding season and will have folks talking about him throughout the year and I expect many references to last year's championship game. I, again my personal opinion, believe that Sullinger sank because of questions regarding his health and because his season did not meet expectations because he did not have the coaching necessary to improve on his natural abilities.

Can't wait for the season to get here. BTW, the Houston Chronicle had an article on Marcus the other day, hopefully this will let you access it: http://blog.chron.com/ultimaterockets/2012/07/rockets-forward-marcus-morris-plans-all-out-effort-to-earn-playing-time/

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1stnamemistermiddlenameperiod 1 year, 9 months ago

So Withey is 7'1" now?

Its hilarious how heights change so much in basketball. When I saw the '12 Olympic basketball team picuture, a few things hit me: Kevin Love is a lot shorter than I realized; Blake Griffin is a lot taller than I realized; and I have no clue of how tall KD and Lebron really are. Lebron and Carmello are both listed as 6'8" and KD is listed as 6'9", but Carmello looks taller than both of them.

I saw a site listing Elijah Johnson (who is clearly taller than Tyshawn Taylor) as 6'2". Tyshawn Taylor, who measured 6'2" (and some change) without shoes at the predraft workouts (and 6"4" with shoes) is taller than Bradley Beal who was listed as 6'5" prior to the draft. WTF knows!

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jhawkrulz 1 year, 9 months ago

I know that Jeff Withey improved a lot last year, but he wasn't even the most improved player on KU's team last year. TRob was. Don't forget TRob went from being a bench player that probably averaged a foul every 2 mins with limited scoring and known only for rebounding to the only concensus All-American and according to all major reports the second best player in college last year.

Jeff Withey will need to continue to improve, but his success is dependent on the entire team stepping up as well. We have some gaps to fill (e.g. PG and PF) are clearly the top two.

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Tony Bandle 1 year, 9 months ago

Respectfully, have any of you seen what passes for basketball at the NBA level lately??

It makes the Michigan State Rizzo Riot look like The Little Sisters of the Poor taking in homeless orphans.

It makes WWF Wrestling look like recess at the Day Care Center complete with milk, cookies and a nap.

It makes NASCAR look like a Cub Scout Soap Box Derby whereby no one gets hurt and everybody gets a trophy.

It makes NFL Football look like....well,...NFL Football without pads

It is a harsh, brutal, physical grind where the contact rule for a foul is no broken bones poking through skin, no foul!! Jeff needs to gear up for nightly gladiator warfare with very large, powerful men who are also very, very mean!! He needs to train and be prepared to be attacked.

Jeff's Doctor Jeykl will need to turn into Mr. Hyde!!!!!

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KemDooKU 1 year, 9 months ago

Meyers was a beast in the middle - a serious banger so that's why he went so high. The NBA is not for the soft if you have not been watching - Jeff is a little more finess but that being said the guy has length which can't be coached. If he wants the NBA then he needs to get nasty and his teammates should not have to fire him up to get there.....he needs to do it all by himself. As the ex Chiefs coach said to Larry - "it's time to take the diapers off".

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REHawk 1 year, 9 months ago

Well, my preseason stance last year was, "If Jeff Withey develops to the point that he can start and play major minutes, this team is going to be really good." His progress made for a super season, his blocks thwarting the offense of the #1 player in the country by the April NCAA Final. My hope his senior season is for him to add 3 or 4 points per game to his scoring, and continue on the upward path toward establishing alltime NCAA block records. It stands to reason that we should get double digit scoring most games from BenMac, Perry, EJ and Travis. Toss in a steady 12-13 pts. from Jeff, and this squad should be difficult to defend. Any one of these players could contribute 20+ pts. on a given night. McLemore might do it often. With chances for more efficient midrange and outside shooting this season, Jeff probably will not get the defensive heat that our bigs received a year ago. When doubled, he's going to have to learn to draw fouls, to punish opponents from the stripe. I should think that mastering the talent to get to the line might be his best offensive focus this season.

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Displayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

My question is whether Withey can continue to improve without having the best big man coach in the world (Danny Manning) coaching him???

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Chris Shaw 1 year, 9 months ago

So this is my concern with Withey and the 2012-2013 squad (BTW-I am as excited about this squad and the next two or three squads as I have ever been for KU hoops). Look, last year there was a handful of posters including myself that thought Jeff Withey would be just fine last season. Despite many of the doubters I kept saying that increased responsbility, increased playing time, playing alongside T-Rob and a sense of ownership to continue the KU excellence would allow Jeff Withey to thrive in Self's system.

Now, even with more of the scoring responsibility, I don't see Jeff Withey having the same type of season as he did last year. I think that if Withey takes on the extra scoring load that 1) His offensive exploits will be shown even more (hurt his stock in the eyes of the NBA) and 2) take away from his defensive presence (Which is the reason he is going to have a long NBA career in the first place).

I think Perry Ellis, Traylor, and Peters will be great compliments, but they aren't T-Rob! For some reason I just feel that Withey's weaknesses will be shown more this year and thus hurt his stock for the NBA next year. I would be shocked if Jeff Withey was a Top 5 pick, but much in the same manner that Jared Sullinger went from a #1 or #2 (Top 5 pick) and fell into the low 20's the next year...................I think Jeff Withey may be in that same category. I hope I am wrong, but just my opinion and two cents. I just think that if Withey takes on more responsbility in the scoring department...............that that hinders his success going forward. I still think he needs to be a plan C or D on offense and roam around defensively doing his thing.

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jaybate 1 year, 9 months ago

Regarding Meyers Leonard, any footer that can play well in D1 without a coach has got a good shot in the L.

Meyers Leonard played for Bruce Webber.

That means he played with out a coach.

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jaybate 1 year, 9 months ago

Its official. Keegs is not looking for a job with the NBA. :-)

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jaybate 1 year, 9 months ago

Jeff will be lucky to come out of the Cheegan State game out of the infirmary, unless...

a) Jeff has put on some muscle; b) Jamari Traylor is as tough as his rep; c) Ellis and Peters understand D1 violence in a way most freshman don't; d) Self shows them videos of the contracts Don Ratso put out on Cole and the twins; or e) all of the above.

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Jay Dogger 1 year, 9 months ago

Withey knows what is expected of him and he realizes the opportunity he has. He's got one more year to improve and show off his skillz. I think he'll make the most of it.

If he is indeed the 3rd leading scorer on the team then I think he will have accomplished what we hope from him. And it will be another great example of watching a player develop under HCBS.

Rock Chalk Jeff Withey!

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Robin Smith 1 year, 9 months ago

Nice article. Wrapped up well.

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Bangkok_Jayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

If Withey makes the NBA it will be half because of a lot of hard work this off season and half because he finds and utilizes the buffet!

Withey has the height, length, defensive skills, and athletic ability to play in the NBA. It is essential that he puts on 20 or so good pounds. Maybe more? He needs to be a bit better at rebounding and some weight will help that.

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Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

Withey is an even better post defender than Cole...and Aldrich was pretty impressive. Withey is exactly right about becoming a more versatile scoring threat and finding more confidence. That 3 game stretch was golden...imagine if bigJeff averaged close to that for the season? I personally think he can get 6-8pts on the FT line every game along with 2 or 3 FGs for a 12-14ppg avg...which we will need. If Withey is motivated for lotto level chance, that is major motivation. We shall see how he develops without Danny. Recall Self had good bigs at Illinois and no Danny. The loss of Danny is huge, for sure, but the correct attitude+toughness is largely due to Self (he created the tough-swag Twins). And it is Self's entire creation of high-low and the transition requirements for his bigmen along with designed high%looks for the bigs every night that creates big possibilities for KU bigs.

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TheUniversityofKansas 1 year, 9 months ago

Why not just call Withey 7'2"? Or 7'3"? I mean, Keegan added a phantom inch in this article. Why not keep it going?

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