Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wildcats: Jeff Withey ‘changed the game on defense’

Kansas center Jeff Withey defends against a shot from Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez during the second half of the Big 12 tournament championship on Saturday, March 16 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas center Jeff Withey defends against a shot from Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez during the second half of the Big 12 tournament championship on Saturday, March 16 2013 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after win over Kansas State

Kansas coach Bill Self talks after his team's 70-54 win over Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament championship on March 16, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Kevin Young

Kansas seniors Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Kevin Young talk to reporters after the Jayhawks' 70-54 victory over Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament championship game on March 16, 2013.

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Box score


— The final stat sheet showed that Kansas University center Jeff Withey recorded just one blocked shot during Saturday's 70-54 victory against Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship title game at Sprint Center.

It marked just the seventh time in 34 tries this season that Withey finished a game with fewer than two blocks and just the 16th time in the past two seasons combined. But don't go calling on the Wildcats (27-7) for sympathy. Despite not letting the KU senior get his mitts on very many of their 60 shots on Saturday, the Wildcats said they felt Withey's presence just about every time they tried to drive to the rim.

“He did his job,” said K-State center Jordan Henriquez, who finished with six points and five rebounds on 2-of-6 shooting. “He altered a lot of shots and he also gave other guys opportunities to get blocks. He changed the game on defense.”

The Wildcats, who shot 35 percent for the game (21-60) and just 22 percent in the first half (6-27), were a woeful 8-of-18 shooting on tries at the rim. That included missing their first six layup attempts and nine of the 15 layups they attempted all night.

“Looking at the percentages right now, the best thing we did was shoot free throws, and we shot 50 percent,” said KSU point guard Angel Rodriguez. “So that says a lot.”

Perhaps no K-State player felt Withey's presence more than Rodriguez, who finished the game 3-of-12 from the floor, with all of his makes coming from beyond the three-point line.

Asked about Withey's presence in the paint, Rodriguez fully admitted that driving the lane and seeing Withey waiting for him forced him to change his release. He was not interested in elaborating.

“I don't pay attention to him,” Rodriguez said of Withey, who earned the event's Most Outstanding Player honor. “I don't know what to say about him. I pay attention to my team. We lost. What am I gonna say about Jeff?”

With the Wildcats reeling from their third loss to the team they shared the Big 12 regular season title with, the focus shifted to the victor's locker room, where several Jayhawks were more than happy to talk about how thrilled they are to not have to compete against the 7-foot Withey.

“It's crazy, man,” KU guard Ben McLemore said. “He's unstoppable in there. Even if he doesn't block the shot, he can challenge the shot. I definitely think he changed a lot of their guards' shot selection, and he changed the pace of how they were playing. He meant a lot today.”

McLemore said there are times when he thinks to himself, "Are they crazy?" when he see opposing teams continue to attack Withey inside.

“Sometimes I'll be thinking, 'The first time didn't work, the second time didn't work,' and they try to go again and it still doesn't work,” McLemore chuckled. “That's what teams are gonna do, they're gonna try to go at Jeff, and he knows how to hold his ground.”

Sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe echoed McLemore's thoughts and said Withey's defense can do more than keep points off the board.

“Teams definitely get frustrated,” Tharpe said. “And that's only gonna help us in the tournament. In basketball, you're supposed to be aggressive, so hopefully they don't stop (going at Withey), because he's gonna get blocked shots.”


justinryman 8 years, 1 month ago

Aint no party like a Withey block party cause a Withey block party don't stop!

deepind 8 years, 1 month ago

Withey parties like a block star, parties like a block star... :)

Boouk 8 years, 1 month ago

Withey played well, but he shouldn't have been the tournament MVP over Perry Ellis. Ellis was our best player this week.

Dale Kroening 8 years, 1 month ago

Couldnt agree more. Withey played well in the tourney and made his presence felt defensively, but Perry played his azz off. In the 3 games he made 20-25 field goals, 6-6 from the line in just 18.3 mpg. It had to be Withey or Perry, but Perry should have got it no doubt.

JayHawkFanToo 8 years, 1 month ago

Read the article again. Even when Withey is not scoring/rebounding/blocking his mere presence changes the other team's offense.
As KU fans, we are used to this and some don't really appreciate his impact; other teams obviously do.

Steve Quatrocky 8 years, 1 month ago

Disagree strongly. While Perry was great, and I absolutely loved his breakout performances and the crowd chanting his name, it was still limited minutes in 2 of the three games while Jeff was consistently controlling the Defense. Read the article again, that was the point. Jeff could have easily finished shots during Perrys run but fed him the assists instead.

They got it right putting Perry on the All Tourney Team but Jeff was even more important. The fact that he blocks so many shots, alters the rest, yet rarely fouls means we take him for granted, not to mention that NOBODY has ever been better at keeping his blocks inbounds, either securing it himself or tipping it to a teammate. His consistency all year makes him MVP of our season, more than Ben too.

Andy Godwin 8 years, 1 month ago

Couldn't disagree more. Although every KU fan is thrilled, absolutely thrilled to see how much Perry has improved on offense as of late, he still is not a great Self-type defender. I remember distinctly during a point in the game when Jeff left for a breather. KSU's next two positions were directed at Perry resulting in a dunk and then a foul by Perry on a lay up attempt and two KSU free throws. Self immediately but Jeff back in. There is still too much drop off on defense when Jamari and Perry sub for Jeff and Kevin. The good news is Perry's offense is starting to make up for his defense lapses and that both Jamari and Jeff will improve over the years, but currently they can't replace Jeff's presence on defense. And KU wins because they have been one of the best in the nation, year in and year out, regarding holding the opposing team to poor shooting percentages since Self took over. That is why KU matches well with teams like KSU, where the other KU defenders funnel the opposing offense to Jeff. Their weakness this year has primarily been against teams like ISU that draw Jeff away from the basket and make him a non-factor. KU will miss the Big XII defensive player of the year.

April13 8 years, 1 month ago

Has anyone seen Rick Barnes tonight? He's got some 'splainin to do.

MinnesotaJay 8 years, 1 month ago

“Looking at the percentages right now, the best thing we did was shoot free throws, and we shot 50 percent,” said KSU point guard Angel Rodriguez. “So that says a lot.”

That seems pretty funny to me. Maybe it wouldn't to a K-State fan (he he).

justinryman 8 years, 1 month ago

Na someone else would have stepped up tonight for KU

Oscar_Unit 8 years, 1 month ago

Was glad to see Traylor get the nice block inside. I think Withey is going to be hardest to replace next year, but Traylor looks like he's going to be a beast.

Steve Zimmerman 8 years, 1 month ago

Sadly, we can't really rely on a beast who can't do a jack on the offensive end. He's got tons to learn how to finish those bunnies, how to post, to shoot, or to do post moves. Potential, yes. It'll be interesting how the lineup looks like next season. I don't believe Traylor will be ready to start.

Michael Johnson 8 years, 1 month ago

Lucas will be the beast next year. Bank on it.

mattiesdad 8 years, 1 month ago

Remember, it's only his 4th year playing organized basketball - which is somewhat hard to believe. He's going to be good, just give the staff some more time with him.

KULA 8 years, 1 month ago

Traylor is going to be a great shot blocker for us for the next few years. He gets a lot of blocks for the minutes he plays. And his offense is coming along steadily also. I see him as a big contributor for us in the future.

Jim Roth 8 years, 1 month ago

Traylor averages 3.0 blocks per 40 min. Pretty good, but not Withey-esque (5.0 blocks per 40 min.)

Jack Wilson 8 years, 1 month ago

On Traylor, I literally have seen no appreciable increase in his skill level. His skill level is what is going to make him a player. His athleticism has got him this far. But skill is what he is lacking.

In the Michigan St. game, he had a monster block or two. Had some others early. That provides zero indication of improvement in his skill. He had a block yesterday. Same stuff. The guy is really 6'7" .. maybe. His game is not going to be a "shot blocker." It will be random shot blocking.

I can point to only one move the second half of the season .. the spin move for a bucket vs. Texas. That's it. He really has never hit a jump shot.

Personally, I don't see any "beast." "Beast" is Withey. "Beast" is TRob. The Morris twins were "Beasts". Aldrich was a "Beast." (All top 50 players by the way). As for being a "big contributor", I see a guy that by his junior or senior year who may ... at best ... be a reliable, low minutes rotation guy, peaking as the first big off the bench only if our efforts to recruit better players fail (or injury). Interestingly, he could be a starter next season for a bit if we don't get Randle .. a role far beyond his skill and capabilities and a role that would have been created by recruiting misses.

All much like Wesley last season .. As I said last season, the guy (Wesley) shouldn't even be playing for KU. Wesley played because we had no one else. That's it. Now we have other options. He doesn't play. No surprise. The posts above about Traylor are the same as some about Wesley last season .. where folks got a bit unrealistically giddy about a borderline player's prospects going forward.

Traylor was ranked 141 by rivals. There is certainly no indication based on his play on the court that he is, or will be, any better than that.

Jonathan Briles 8 years, 1 month ago

I think you are being a little harsh on Traylor. Did you honestly think that any of those "beast" players would be as good as they ended up being when they first got here? Traylor is a freshman and has a lot of time and a lot of potential. When Withey first got here no one thought he would end up leaving as a dominant player and our Shot blocking leader. Robinson was also just as raw as Traylor is now. Traylor is a role player right now because that is the spot he fills on this years team. He has fouls to give and so he goes in and is a wrecking ball and an energy person. In time he will develop some better moves and contribute to the team. I'm not saying he will be anything like Robinson, but he has a higher ceiling than what you are portraying him to have.

Annette Lee 8 years, 1 month ago

Traylor improved, Lucas should be a pleasant addition and Jo Jo could begin to blossom in March.. Plus HCBS said that he hoped recruiting is not over, so the talking heads can speculate while HCBS begins convincing a young team that they could be good!

s6u6r6f 8 years, 1 month ago

If I had a gun for every shot Withey has changed, I could arm a town the size of Abilene. Rock chalk.

bayareajhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

good reference...

I can tell the Queen of Diamonds by the way she shines

ajhk 8 years, 1 month ago

I'd like to see all those posters who used the term "ChenoWithey" (two years ago) to come out and make a pledge to see a KU player's development through before being so cruel.

Jeff has altered much more than field goals around here. Jeff is a bada$$. Jeff stuck it out and prevailed against all the criticism to become this team's rock and KU's top shot blocker.

I recall an article where Aldrich was being praised for his great defensive presence when he stated that Jeff was a better shot blocker than he in practice. Not many took that statement seriously then. Any doubts now?

Thank you Withey for all you've given KU

Now I'd like to see the Tourney serve him some fresh meat. Our conference foes have definitely become weary and keep their distance. I'd love to watch some nonbelievers come meet their maker in the paint!

Kevin Jenkins 8 years, 1 month ago

Thanks Jeff, Perry, Releford, Tharpe, Ben, Traylor and rest of the team for proving that KU is still Champs. And only we deserved to be outright champions. Who was the better coach last night? Where is Webber and his comments now? Yes Jeff in the middle, helped out with guys not penetrating.. But the guards did a good job also. Young too. People were commenting on Perry's faults so strongly a few weeks ago. Hmm! Maybe all our players next year will be mostly sophomores. But next stop this year, Ncaa champs

Gary McCullough 8 years, 1 month ago

Would Mack Brown still have his job if Kansas had won the last 9 conference championships on football?

justinryman 8 years, 1 month ago

Rick only shared one, OU shared the other before this year.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 1 month ago

Justin - UT shared the title in both '06 & '08.

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