Friday, February 1, 2013

Ostertag OK with Withey breaking his KU blocks record

Former Kansas University center Greg Ostertag gets a big ovation as he is introduced before the Legends of the Phog alumni game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Former Kansas University center Greg Ostertag gets a big ovation as he is introduced before the Legends of the Phog alumni game Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.


When Greg Ostertag is not fishing, golfing or running “a little spice business called Smokehouse Salt Company,” he’s monitoring the progress of Kansas University’s basketball team.

Like last year, that means watching fellow 7-footer Jeff Withey block shot after shot and creep ever so closer to his own school-record block total of 258 set from 1992 to ’95.

Withey needs seven blocks Saturday against Oklahoma State (3 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse) to tie and eight rejections to pass Ostertag as No. 1 human eraser in school annals.

“You know what? The record wasn’t going to stand forever. Absolutely I’m happy for him,” Ostertag told the Journal-World in a phone interview from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. “I held the record for 20 years. Barring anything crazy happening to him, his record will probably stand for 20 years ... then it’ll be broken.

“I’m proud to have held the record at a prestigious school like KU for as long as I did,” Ostertag added. “You’ve got to look at it ... Jeff hardly played his first two years. If he played as much as he did the last two years he’d probably have broken it last year. Same with me. For my career, I averaged 18 minutes a game or something like that. Had I played more, my block total would have been higher. I’m absolutely happy for him. I think it’s cool to have held onto it for so long.”

The 39-year-old Ostertag is pleased that a category such as blocks is getting so much attention at KU.

Another shot blocker deluxe, Cole Aldrich (2008-10) is No. 2 on the all-time rejection list (253). Just a couple years ago he was pushing for Ostertag’s record.

“A lot of people don’t see it as a high-end stat. They say, ‘it’s just blocked shots,’” Ostertag said. “You’ve got to think of all the shots all shot blockers have blocked and guestimate the shots they changed. For all 258 blocks I had I probably changed triple that (amount). It was cool when I broke Danny’s record,” he said of Danny Manning, now seventh on the all-time block list with 200 (1985-88). “It’s cool for Jeff I’m sure to break a record.”

Withey has said many times he’d like to become not only KU’s all-time shot blocker, but the Big 12’s block leader (Texas’ Chris Mihm had 264 from 1997-2000).

But, “it’s not consuming my head,” Withey said. “I know I’m going to get it sooner or later. If I can get it this game it’d be awesome. It’s definitely an honor to be in the same category as all the guys in front of me now. It’s my goal to get it, but I’m worried about winning the game first.”

Withey, who hails from San Diego — Ostertag is originally from Duncanville, Texas — said he’s humbled to be close to passing ‘The Big O.’

“I didn’t know much about him. I remember everybody calling him ‘Big Country’ or something like that,” Withey said. “He was a great player in the NBA (Utah, Sacramento for 11 years). Growing up, I didn’t know much about KU. He went to KU. By the time you are a senior you learn about that kind of stuff,” Withey added.

Ostertag has visited with Aldrich in the past, but has not yet met Withey.

He knows Withey’s game, however, from watching numerous games on TV.

“He is more athletic than a lot of big centers,” the 7-foot-2, 280-pound Ostertag said of the 7-foot, 235-pound Withey. “He has a good eye for the ball, good timing. He’s good on the help side. What he does really well is he stays on the floor, lets guys basically put the ball in his hands. He’s good at going up and blocking the shot at the highest point.”

Like Ostertag and Aldrich, Withey tries to not hammer the ball into the stands.

“That’s important. That’s an extra possession,” Ostertag said. “There are times to go up and try to throw one into the 14th row, to get everybody going, get the crowd into it. Any chance I had to keep the ball in play and get it back, that’s what I was trying to do.”

Ditto Withey, who remembers batting the ball into the stands against one certain opponent.

“I don’t try to throw it out of bounds because that’s a waste,” Withey said. “I try to either tip it up in the air or keep it in play. I did it last year against Kentucky. I think the first two blocks I threw ‘em in the stands. We lost that game. I’m not going to do that any more. Normally my teammates are so used to it, they see it coming and can get in the right position.”

Withey is hoping to copy Ostertag and Aldrich and have a career in the NBA.

“I think so. That’s what I do,” Withey said, asked if he can envision himself blocking shots in the pros. “I did it in high school. I did it in college. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to block shots in the NBA. It’d be awesome. It took me a little bit of time in college to get used to the speed of the game. I think eventually I can be as effective in NBA as college.”

Ostertag noted: “I’m sure he will (play in NBA). I’m sure somebody will give him a chance, somebody will pick him up because he’s tall, he’s a shot blocker, he’s athletic, he can run the floor. He has soft touch around the basket. I definitely wish him the best.”

As far as a ‘Big O’ update ... Ostertag’s son, Cody, is a freshman basketball player at Arizona Christian University in Phoenix.

“It’s a little NAIA school here in town. He broke his foot and is redshirting,” he said of the 6-foot-8 Cody Ostertag, who spent a couple summers attending Bill Self’s KU basketball camps.

And, what about this spice business?

“They are premium smoked spices,” he said. “All have been smoked in real hickory — salt, pepper, garlic, onion, jalapeno, different blends in there for fish, poultry, all that good stuff.”

Information on Ostertag’s company can be found here.


daytonahawk2 1 year, 2 months ago

One of my favorite memories is watching Big "O" bring the ball down the court like a guard and see Roy literally pulling his hair with both hands yelling at Ostertag to pass the ball ... :-)


April13 1 year, 2 months ago

Greg Gurley gave Ostertag his nickname: Big counter the Big Country crap out of Stillwater.

Here is when you realize what a dynasty we have had in basketball:

Big Country and OSU....came and went

OU and Billy Tubbs.....came and went

Texas and Durant.....came and went

Mizzou and Sundvold/Chievous/Dixon.....came and went

Kansas just keeps rolling along, in the thick of things every single season....forever


Lance Hobson 1 year, 2 months ago

Greg was usually out of shape and certainly goofy at KU. He did go through an idiot phase where he was always talking in class acting like he was in an episode of "Saved by the Bell," only he was in college. What was really annoying is that he used to talk like he was from the hood, maybe he thought it was cool. Kind of a jokester on the court, too.

Withey is all business and has a great future and will make it because he's good, not because he's a bumbling 7-footer like Big O.


jayhawkinnc 1 year, 2 months ago

Pollard was only 6'11". Roger Brown was 6'11" and so was Raef LaFrentz. Robisch was 6'10" and so was Danny. Yes, Mokeski was 7'0" according to wikipedia. Not sure about Rick Suttle. So, I guess our total number of true 7 footers to have played at KU is 6:

Wilt Mokeski Dreiling Ostertag Chenowith Withey

and number 7 will be Joel Embiid


Alohahawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Time to guess the final tally for 'blocked shots' which Withey will have after he plays his last college game. He has a guaranteed minimum of 13 games left (11 conference + 1 conference tournament game). Then, guessing conservatively, another 6 games (2 more in the conference tourney + 4 in the Big Dance = Elite Eight.) Up to a maximum of 20 games, if KU plays 3 conference tourney games and adds 6 more, if the Jayhawks make it to the NCAA Championship game.

If Withey continues to average 4+ per game that's a minimum of 52 additional blocks - Total of 303, or 80 additional blocks if KU makes it to the finals of the two tournaments (Total of 331 blocks). If I were superstious I'd guess 317. That number has popped up numerous times for me (Last 3 digits of a former girl friend's phone number, # of points I scored in BB during my Sr. year in high school, street # of house I lived in back in high school, # of girls I scored... (oops, forget that one. That one could still change!), License plate # of my most recent car. Seems like something important often happens to me on St. Patricks day (March 17),...Etc.

So how about a total 337 blocks for Withey? That's about what he'd have if he continues his season's average (4.3) for 20 more games.

Would also set a nice goal for future Jayhawks - Read JoJo Embiid. :>)


Sam Constance 1 year, 2 months ago

It's probably good for the Big O to be okay with something that is inevitable.

I'm excited to see Withey knock Chris Mihm from the top spot in the Big 12 blocks.


Dickless Head 1 year, 2 months ago

Greg Ostertag is the epitome of a God-following son of the Lord. His teams followed the 10 Commandments, and consequently they won lots of games and championships; it's not coincidence. Let this be a lesson to our current group of young men. They need to turn to the Lord, and they will see their win total go up.


JHawk252 1 year, 2 months ago

For the sake of furthering his college education and learning the difference between "Big O" and "Big Country," Mr. Withey may want to review the box score from one of the most exciting games in Big Eight history.

In the final game of the 1994-95 regular season, KU beat OSU for the conference title, 78-62. Ostertag scored 10 points, with 5 blocks, helping hold Big Country Reeves to 0 (zero) points for the only time in his college career. However, I believe OSU's Randy Rutherford still holds the record for the most 3-pointers in a single game against KU, as he went 11 of 19 from that range.

Keep swatting 'em Jeff. I love watching you make history that players 20 years from now will be learning about.


AzHawk97 1 year, 2 months ago

Ostertag would have had one more block if it wasn't for Glenn Robinson. That confrontation ended in a dunk for the "Big Dog" and a handshake from the "Big O."


iamakufan 1 year, 2 months ago

"Big Country." Oops. Wrong school there, Jeff!


jayhawkinnc 1 year, 2 months ago

Yes! Thank you. Dreiling was 7'1". Can't believe I forgot about him. I met him at the final four last year. Super nice guy! Thanks for reminding me.


jayhawkinnc 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm trying to recall how many legitimate 7 footers we've had at KU (6'11" doesn't count). We've had Wilt (7'1"), Ostertag (7'2"), Chenowith (7'1" I believe) and Withey (7'0"). Am I missing anybody?


dhinkansas 1 year, 2 months ago

Ahhh...those matchups between Ostertag and Big Country as OSU were classic back in the day :)


Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

Greg never was great at math...let's see, setting the record in 1995 with the first full year being 1996 up to 2013, that translates 17 years. Oh well, I'll bet he's good at counting his NBA money!!

Besides being quicker, a better scorer, running the floor better and having a full head of hair, Jeff is amazingly adept at maintaining control of a block shot. Not that we need another stat but I think that play deserves it's on name. like "blocked posssession" or something like that.

Greg's blocks usually ended up in the second row!!


vd 1 year, 2 months ago

Wouldn't it be great, if just once, a former athlete would answer the question with: "He!! no, I hope no one ever breaks my record."


coloradojayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Is this block total for his time at KU or his all-time college blocks?


REHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Nice point in time, Gary, to revive Big O in the discussion regarding Withey's ascent. In June, will be very interesting to see where Jeff is selected in the 2013 NBA draft.


Jayhawks Rock 1 year, 2 months ago

Of course the big O is ok with his record being broken. It's not like he can do anything about it. Also, he is a member of the jayhawk family, where it's not just about "me".


Lifelong_Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

But seriously, I'm glad Ostertag wants to see his record broken. For one thing, it means the program is getting better, with better players coming through (no diss on Ostertag). For another, we don't need anyone to take a 1972 Miami Dolphins approach to certain feats being accomplished.


Lifelong_Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Dear Jeff,

Look to Stillwater, OK if you're looking for "Big Country".

Regards, Bryant Reeves


KULA 1 year, 2 months ago

The writer is just being kind with "Withey is hoping to copy Aldrich and have a career in the NBA." As I posted 2 or 3 years ago, he'll be a better pro than Cole because (and Greg somewhat concurred) Jeff runs the floor better, is a better shot blocker, is more mobile offensively and has a better shooting touch.

Jeff would have well over 300 blocks already if he'd have gotten a few minutes PT to develop in his freshman/sophomore years.

Viva el Jefe!


jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago


I member when you got punked by Shaq and I was furious with him for doing it, and a little angry you didn't punch back. Now that I am older, I realize how right you were to end it and make the money. He has turned out to be a ugly caricature of himself, and you have a family and a new business. When all is said and done, you play for rings in college and money in the pros. You didn't get your ring, but you got your money. Good for you. Do the same with your spice biz.


mjhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Jeff must be too young to remember who 'Big Country' was/is. Makes me feel old. The 'Big O' is an all-time favorite of mine. I rode the elevator with him down in San Antonio in '08. He was a nice guy and I kept thinking this dude has earned about $50 million playing basketball and gave a kidney to his sister (I think it was his sister?). The O had about as good as of a NBA career as he could have. Hope his spice business does well.


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