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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Jeff Withey gone wild

Big man had monster noncon season

Kansas center Jeff Withey (5) and Kevin Young fight for a rebound with Temple defenders Scootie Randall and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Jeff Withey (5) and Kevin Young fight for a rebound with Temple defenders Scootie Randall and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Kansas center Jeff Withey (5) and Kevin Young fight for a rebound with Temple defenders Scootie Randall and Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

There are some striking similarities between 2012 Naismith Player of the Year/Wooden Award winner/NABC Defensive Player of the Year Anthony Davis and current Kansas University senior center Jeff Withey, who has positioned himself to at least be in the conversation for those honors following a productive 2012-13 nonconference season.

The 7-foot Withey, as reddit.com pointed out Monday, actually has had a better nonconference campaign than former Kentucky phenom Davis did a year ago. Through 13 games last season, Davis had 58 blocks and 29 fouls. Through 13 games in 2012-13, Withey has 68 blocks and 16 fouls.

By last season’s end, Davis totaled 186 blocks, or 4.7 per game.

Withey is averaging 5.23 blocks a game.

KU’s anchor from San Diego enters the upcoming Big 12 season as a rival to Davis, No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, on the offensive end as well.

Davis last season averaged 14.2 points a game off 62.3 percent shooting.

Withey currently averages 13.4 points per game (second on team to Ben McLemore’s 15.6) off 55.8 percent marksmanship. Withey has made 71.4 percent of his free throws; Davis hit 70.9 percent his only season at UK. Withey averages 8.2 rebounds; Davis averaged 10.4 a year ago.

“Cole (Aldrich, Houston Rockets) was the best shot-blocker we’ve had since I’ve been here up until Jeff. I bet you Cole averaged less than three blocks a game. He’s the best, and Jeff is averaging 5, almost double of the best we’ve had. Jeff is really good at it,” KU coach Bill Self said.

Aldrich, who is second on KU’s all-time block charts with 253 compared to Greg Ostertag’s 258, averaged 3.5 blocks a game in 2009-10.

Withey has 233 career blocks, which is fifth all-time at KU. If he stays healthy, of course, he’s a lock to become the school’s all-time leader.

If KU’s single-season blocks leader (140 last year, compared to Aldrich’s 125 in 2009-10) wants to dream big, he can shoot for David Robinson’s single-season NCAA-record total of 207 rejections, set in 1985-86.

“Jeff can block it almost flat-footed or from a rotation standpoint. He’s just so long,” Self said Monday on his “Hawk Talk” radio show. “Jeff chooses his spots pretty well. I don’t know if his shot blocks (total) does justice to his defensive ability because he changes the game. He changes how people think. He changes scouting report just because he is effective and has an unbelievable knack for blocking shots and keeping it in play where we can retrieve it.

“From a defensive standpoint, we don’t win the game (69-62 Sunday vs. Temple) without him back there blocking and altering,” Self added.

ESPN.com noticed Withey’s effort in Sunday’s victory over the Owls.

“Withey is having an insane defensive season,” Eamonn Brennan wrote Monday in a blog under the headline, “Jeff Withey is having a crazy season.”

“Through 13 games, Withey is making Davis look like an amateur,” Brennan added.

Withey, by the way, isn’t the country’s only shot-blocker deluxe. St. John’s freshman Chris Obekpa actually has 71 blocks — three more than Withey — while playing one more game. Arizona State junior Jordan Bachynski has 69 blocks — one more than Withey — while playing two additional games. St. John’s, however, is 9-5 and unranked, and ASU 13-2 and unranked. KU is 12-1 and the sixth-rated team in the country.

In-game interviews: In a strange twist, CBS’ sideline reporter interviewed KU coach Self during a second-half timeout Sunday. Temple’s Fran Dunphy was interviewed during a first-half timeout.

“I think that’s probably enough in-game discussion we’ll have with interviewers,” Self said on “Hawk Talk.” Obviously, he’d prefer meeting with his team during entire timeouts and not spending time with reporters.

“It’s something they are experimenting with. I think we are the first group they have done it with. They got Fran to do it. Naturally, I’m the bad guy if I don’t. I did it. I feel we’ve done what they asked now we can get back to being snobbish and doing everything on our own,” Self added, jokingly.

Bench: Self was asked by a caller if freshmen Rio Adams and Andrew White III “could help us” in games during the Big 12 season.

“I do. I told our team today, this is very blunt but very true, I doubt both of them will. The reason I say that is, I don’t see any reason why we’d play six perimeter players unless there are foul problems or injuries,” Self said. “Just like there’s no need to play five big guys unless we have foul problems or injuries. Unless it’s an energy deal and you bring them in and certainly hope they change the pace of the game or change the negative we have going on, give us a positive boost. That could happen. I think they both are capable.”

He applauded White for his three minutes of work in the second half of a close game Sunday.

“I thought he did a good job,” Self said. “I don’t know if we have a lot of games that everybody will get a chance to impact it. Maybe one of the two, but not both.”

Danny vs. Larry: KU coach Self watched part of Tulsa’s 48-47 victory over SMU on Sunday. Self’s mentor, former KU coach Larry Brown, coaches SMU; former KU and Self assistant Danny Manning coaches Tulsa.

“What a finish. It was an unbelievable finish. I was happy for Danny and sad for coach,” Self said. Tulsa’s Pat Swilling hit a three with 3.8 seconds left to give the Golden Hurricane the win.

“You hate to see either one of them lose. It was about as exciting a finish as we’ve seen.”

Several members of KU’s 1988 title team, including Milt Newton, Archie Marshall, Scooter Barry, Kevin Pritchard and Lincoln Minor, attended. Brown coached the Manning-led KU team that won the ’88 national title.

“Archie is one of those guys who reminds me so much of Ben (McLemore), or Ben reminds me of him,” Self said. “An athletic wing. Archie, of course, had knee issues. I’m sure they had a good time with the exception of the game down there (the fact one had to lose).”

Next: KU (12-1) will meet Iowa State (10-3) at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Allen.

Comments

Alex Wishart 1 year, 3 months ago

I heard somewhere that Jeff is so good at the blocking because he played volleyball when he lived in San Diego, California.

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Nicholas Cederlind 1 year, 3 months ago

FIRST of all, Withey out-blocked Davis LAST year and set a record in the tournament. SECOND, Withey is out-pacing Davis from last year but won't get the Wooden award as easily. Painful. Thanks for an entire article on the pain.

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theend 1 year, 3 months ago

Withey is great.....and such a nice guy. Actually......all of our players seem like really good kids. Great bunch and apparently good chemistry. I think Self puts a lot of emphasis on character and integrity both when he recruits and when they come in as players.

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justinryman 1 year, 3 months ago

Liked seeing so many KU Alum watching their former coach and former team mate take each other on in person.

Might have been one of the most talented crowds to watch a mid-major early season basketball game.

Glad they went to support them both. That is F.O.E

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Steve Gantz 1 year, 3 months ago

With 3590 fans in attendance in Dallas, one of the best non-KU matchups of the season happened Sunday in Dallas. I bet they would've sold more tickets than that if they'd held the game in AFH!

2 years ago, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought we'd be debating JW for POY.

I don't mind CBS basketball as much as a lot of people here. Maybe it's for the simple fact that their picture fills up my full screen. Sometimes those ESPN pictures fill half the screen. Don't tell me to go buy a digital package, TV watching isn't that important to me. However I can't believe that CBS would have the nerve to ask a coach in the 2nd half of a tight game to leave a huddle to tell the watching audience something that he's probably lying about.

Someone mentioned Self for coach of the year based on KU's improvement since MSU. Well hopefully every coach has their team improving, so I think that's the wrong criteria to make of COY case. Instead, lets reward him for taking a team which loses two players to the NBA, two leading scorers, leading rebounder, and brings in 7 players with zero college experience and see one loss next to their name in the middle of January.

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Jonathan Allison 1 year, 3 months ago

CBS will be starting the Trey Burke campaign before most of America knows that Withey is a playing basketball and not volleyball.

He stands very little chance at the player of the year award.

Most likely you'll see each network seemingly pumping up anyone out of Burke, Plumlee, Zeller, or some mid-major player with eye-popping stats

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rockchalker5 1 year, 3 months ago

Jeff Withey currently leading a fan poll on CBS sports. Get out there and vote Jayhawks! Pass it along:

http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball

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HawkKlaw 1 year, 3 months ago

I wondered when this discussion about Withey for POY would start up. The reason TRob didn't win it last year was because KU lost to UK early in the season, UK had a better record than KU (and was ranked higher), and Anthony Davis did more defensively than TRob. This year KU has only one loss in the nonconference, has one of the best records in the nation (ranked 6th right now and still climbing) and Withey is the best defensive player in the country. Barring any big setbacks, he should have both Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year on lock.

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FlashyThundercat 1 year, 3 months ago

This article wasn't completely inspired by ESPN's...just so everybody knows.

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Chris Shaw 1 year, 3 months ago

One other thing: I wish Kansas would play on Sunday's more. Outside of playing Missouri Kansas doesn't play very good basketball IMO on Sunday's.

Lost to VCU on a Sunday Lost to Tennesse on a Sunday Played an OT game against Michigan on a Sunday. Played below average basketball against Temple on Sunday Almost lost to Purdue last year in the second round on Sunday Beat UNC by 13 on a Sunday last year, but for 35 mins it was a close/ugly game.

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Chris Shaw 1 year, 3 months ago

I don't know if anybody else noticed but Temple really did scout Kansas pretty well. That "Fake" shot/pass that KY does is starting to lose it's luster. Temple still fouled when KY attempted late in the second half, but Temple was all over it.

Also, Temple's guards defensively kept pushing McLemore, Relly, and especially EJ out beyond their comfort zone on the perimeter Sunday. Kansas is perimeter passing squad that likes Ball Movement, but there does come a point in time when EJ and McLemore are going to have to release that pressure and attack the paint so they can release that pressure.

It wasn't until late in the game and down at home that it clicked that EJ (McLemore never got there this game) needed to make something happen and "Attack". There is a reason that McLemore's and EJ's passes kept getting stollen off swing passes within the Ball and Body Movement (BBM) offense. EJ and BMac aren't keeping the defense honest.

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Konkis Dongington III 1 year, 3 months ago

I was just over at ESPN and I saw this:

http://www.mlive.com/sports/muskegon/index.ssf/2013/01/muskegon_community_college_rec_11.html

Did anyone else know there was a JUCO team in Michigan called the Jayhawks?

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John Randall 1 year, 3 months ago

Comparison to Russell (who changed the game for everyone since – notably the goal tending rule) is high praise indeed. Another quote from Russell about changing the game ... "If I block 5% of your shots, it shouldn't matter a lot, but if those are 50% of the ones I go after, you won't be comfortable whether I go after it or not."

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IlBastardo 1 year, 3 months ago

There have been times when I thought it was East Coast bias keeping Allen Fieldhouse from being pretty much universally recognized as the best basketball environment in the country. From the games I've watched and been to this season, though, I think the recognition we're getting is purely based on reputation. During the Temple game, the commentator remarked that the crowd was quiet, and indeed you could make out individual voices in the stands for a good portion of the game. Despite what anyone thinks, being called the best arena to play basketball doesn't make it any more true for future games. If everyone comes to the Fieldhouse for the show, rather than to bring the show, this praise will be as ill-merited as Bramlage Coliseum merits the title "Octagon of Doom". They turned down the volume of the pregame video, they stopped dimming the lights, they ridicule great plays with the inane Chris Farley clip, and the fans spend the games fiddling with their phones, I can only guess posting to Facebook about how great it is to be in Allen Fieldhouse. Those sportswriters didn't make the Fieldhouse one decibel louder or tougher to play in anymore than they handed the team the Big 12 title this season. We as fans have a lot to prove, the same as the players. We have the easy job.

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FearlessJayhawk 1 year, 3 months ago

The most positive thing about Jeff's blocking ability is when he keeps the ball in play for one of our guys to get. Several years ago, I heard Bill Russell critique shot blockers in college. He said, "Most shot blocker try to swat the ball which goes out of bounds most of the time. You haven't gained a thing." Jeff is the only shot-blocker I've seen recently that blocks the correct way. If he keeps working on his game, he could give Russell a run for his money.

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jhkprd 1 year, 3 months ago

It appears to me that part of Jeff's success should be attributed to Young's emergence as a force inside. There hasn't been as much of a drop off from TRob as I thought there would be.

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Brianna Zaleski 1 year, 3 months ago

It will be interesting to see if JW gets any legitimate run for POY if he keeps thus up. Especially at CBS. those honks, last year, couldn't stop foaming at the mouth when they wrote, or spoke, about ADavis. And it all had to do w/ his ability to change a game defensively and change scouting reports. It would seem that Jeff has the same effect or even moreso. I get what jaybate says about the difference in age, but let's not also forget that politics plays a role in these decisions, or campaigns even, so it will be interesting to see if a white kid from Kansas gets the same love as the inter-city kid from Coach Cal's Kentucky. CBS has a love affair with Calipari so it was no surprise that they pushed hard for Davis last year and ultimately turned the tide. Their claim last year was that AD changed the game on the def end, so we'll see what they do if Jeff keeps up his torid pace.

I read CBS's website a lot and there is a huge UK lean. It's amazing to me. They never even mention Cal's vacated wins when they talk about his win total. Why is that? The dude vacated some 60-70 wins and they speak of him as the next in line to run down coach K (I'm exaggerating a little but u get my point). Even ESPN has the decency to remind us that his win total is skewed because of the two vacated seasons on his record... Need more evidence of a CBS/UK lean? During the game this past Sun, did you notice what team they focused on when they were doing their look back at 75 yrs of March Madness promos? Both times Kentucky. Now you don't think that between KU and Temple (two schools with 3800+ wins between them) they could have found something to feature on one of those schools? It blows my mind and irritates me to no end. We are supposed to believe in objective journalism, but then we are slapped in the face with their agendas constantly.

Inform yourselves. Think for yourselves.

Sorry for the rant. I really hope JW gets his run for POY, because the kid deserves it.

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jhox 1 year, 3 months ago

To me the real difference between Jeff and other shot blockers we've had is that he can be well out of position and still block the shot. He seems to block a lot of shots from the side of the shooter, or even slightly behind the shooter. It helps that he' a 7 footer and really jumps well.

I really feared he would have a drop off after Thomas left, but that's not been the case at all. He's handled the extra defensive attention he's getting very well. I always felt he would turn into a good player for us, even when he was not getting a lot of playing time, but he has way exceeded my expectations.

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Michael Luby 1 year, 3 months ago

Coach already making waves for winning NCOY award.

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KansasComet 1 year, 3 months ago

Not many incoming players earn 10+ minutes in their first season in Lawrence. Really nothing for these young men to be ashamed of. Next year, Ellis, Adams, White III, and Lucas will all contribute. It's like with Robinson and Withey last year, everyone that doesn't follow KU was asking "where did KU get Robinson and Withey from?" Answer: Fresh off the KU bench! Remember a few year ago when Robinson couldn't stay in games because he fouled too much? Remember a few years ago when Withey couldn't gain any weight and was tossed around like a rag doll in the paint? Remember KU VS Michigan State in the Sweet 16 a few years ago, when the Morris Twins were to weak to make a layup? It takes time for these young men to adjust to the college game both mentally and physically. The mental part may be that the ball is not in their hand 70% of the time like it was in high school. High School basketball is 14-18 year olds. College basketball is 18-23 year olds for the most part. Players like Ellis, White III, Adams, and Lucas will contribute, some sooner than others. I look forward watching each of them develop into something special.

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jaybate 1 year, 3 months ago

AW3 will get PT against short 4s in Saturday-Monday games for sure.

Rio has to be ready because EJ's knee could fail at any moment.

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jaybate 1 year, 3 months ago

Much as I love Jeff, and special as I think he is, Anthony Davis did what he did as a frosh and so that's bigger than doing it as 5th year senior. Imagine what Davis would be doing as a 5h year senior. Davis didn't even know what he was doing half the time last year. He was just such an athletic freak he didn't need to.

Jeff knows what he is doing and so he probably is going to do better than Davis.

What I'm most buzzed about with Jeff is his emerging jump hook. Each game it looks a little better. Its not quite there yet, but in a few more games he is apt to start making most of them. When he gets it down, we are going to start seeing some 25 point games from him.

Couple that kind of scoring with his defense, rebounding, which is improving, and stellar blocking and he becomes a huge impact on both ends.

The thing to remember about Jeff is: he might have been this good his first full year if he hadn't gotten sick, his second year if he hadn't gotten hurt.

And as Pollard said, this is the first year they let him be lean and play his game, rather than try to bulk him up to bang.

Jeff could get alot better. Experience wise this is really only his second season. And down the road, he will get heavier as a pro.

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jaybate 1 year, 3 months ago

741,

You are not imagining things. Self treats noncon as a time to get the core stuff down and the time to prove you can do it the hard way, so you get some swagger and also so conference feels like he's really giving you an edge. Think of noncon like swinging two bats in the on deck circle. And conference is like one bat in the box. One bat feels light and quick after swinging two. Another analogy is practicing in weighted shoes and then playing games in shoes without weights. Making do without defensive wrinkles and edges, like, say, switching, is hard work. Later on switching makes it seem effortless.

But Remember Self resorts to wrinkles early if he thinks his team can't win without some. He let them switch off against msu and OSU.

Brown and Manning don't have as good of players, so they have to resort to more wrinkles sooner.

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Ethan Berger 1 year, 3 months ago

I got to bring up recruiting. UK landed Dakari Johnson, which brings their total to 6. Now this should be good news because it has to mean that Randle or Wiggins might be coming our way, or at least the chances look better. If UK landed both guys somehow, the NCAA would need to take a nice long look.

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stm62 1 year, 3 months ago

Lots of coaches will be studying Jeff Withey and his approach to shot blocking. I never thought that Jeff would be this good. Thankfully for us, neither did Arizona. They could have used him in their fictitious win over Colorado.

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Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 3 months ago

I like how at the end of the game, when we really didnt need to keep the swat in-play, it was just simply time to swat one out of bounds in emphatic ColeMan style, and Withey did with 27sec left--serving up a m-a-j-o-r facial...And BMac with an emphatic dunk as the final score. Nice. Wont hear 2 hoots out of those Owl fans now. Now time for Hoiberg's Clones.

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Scott MacWilliams 1 year, 3 months ago

The thing that is so amazing about Withey's shot blocking is he makes it look so easy. You watch him for a while and wonder how he's not blocking 10 or 15 a game.

The opposing offenses are working their butts of to try and get a shot off without one of Jeff's big mitts in their face!! He can be clear across the court, they think they've got an opening, and SWAT! the ball is headed the other way in a fast break!! TOO MUCH FUN!!!

Jeff, we are all so glad that you played volleyball and brought those spiking skills with you!! You are amazing to watch!

Rock Chalk, Swat Hawk!!

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William Blake 1 year, 3 months ago

Perfect Storm: The best blocker in the country lurking in the paint, and the guards chewing popcorn, sitting row 1, egging opponents to penetrate and take their chances.

Mr. W... make the most of it and you'll help your bank account by summer!

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741hawk 1 year, 3 months ago

Discussion, please:

I believe I've observed a coaching pattern re: HCBS. In the non-conference he forces the team to play man-to-man, pushing them to get to be the best they can be. Later, well into the conference season, he breaks out a 2-3 or 3-2 as he needs it. In the tourney, expect to see a box-n-one or a triangle-n-two, if he needs it.

In the SMU vs Tulsa game the other night. Brown alternated zone and man-to-man in the first half. Danny went to a zone in the second half.

What gives? The three all have a lot of experience with one another. Why such different utilization of defenses? What do you think? Jaybate: You could probably write a thesis about this.

I'm interested in all takes.

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