Who feeds Jeff Withey the best?


Kansas center Jeff Withey soars in for an alley-oop dunk against Saint Louis in the first half of the championship game of the CBE Classic, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas center Jeff Withey soars in for an alley-oop dunk against Saint Louis in the first half of the championship game of the CBE Classic, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

I'll admit it. I'm fascinated by how Kansas center Jeff Withey scores his field goals for KU.

This started last year when Ken Pomeroy, in one of his blogs, said Withey "was assisted on short 2s like few other post players."

The numbers in back this up.

Last year, 78 percent of Withey's made field goals at the rim were assisted. Compare that to then-teammate Thomas Robinson, who had 60 percent of layups/dunks assisted.

I wondered if that might change for Withey this season. After all, without Robinson as a go-to scorer inside, one might think that Withey would have to try to create more offensively in the post.

Amazingly, Withey's point production has gone up (13.8 points a game from 9 points per game) though his assisted rate remains almost completely unchanged on close shots.

According to Hoop-Math, 74 percent of Withey's layups/dunks are assisted this year, only slightly down from 78 percent a year ago. (In case you're wondering, Withey makes 67 percent of his layups/dunks, which is well above the NCAA average of 53 percent).

I wanted to take an even closer look at Withey's baskets, giving us a better feel on how he scores on all his field goals (layups/dunks and jumpers).

Going through the box scores, I went charted each of Withey's made twos, taking a look at who assisted him on each of his field goals.

Here's the breakdown.

Jeff Withey

Jeff Withey by Jesse Newell

A few interesting things I found:

If you take out Withey's seven baskets that came after offensive rebounds, you're left with a crazy statistic.

Only three of Withey's 42 field goals this year have been unassisted. Three. That's only 7.1 percent of his made field goals.

This much is clear: The big man is almost entirely reliant on teammates (or his own offensive rebounding positioning) to get his points.

Withey posted one unassisted basket against Michigan State, San Jose State and Oregon State. In KU's other five games, he had none.

There seems to be a learning curve here when it comes to feeding Withey, as the chart above is dominated by returning players.

KU senior guard Elijah Johnson is the best, and that's not surprising, considering he's KU's best passer.

Outside of Ben McLemore, though (five assists), no other freshman has more than two assists to Withey. Some of that might be contributed to limited playing time for the newcomers, but there still seems to be a bit of a difference between the two groups (For example, Kevin Young has played one more minute than Perry Ellis this year but has two more assists to Withey).

KU sophomore Naadir Tharpe might be the biggest surprise player on the chart above.

In 135 minutes, Tharpe has only assisted Withey twice. That especially doesn't look good when you see that in 233 minutes, Johnson has assisted Withey 12 times.

In addition to keeping his turnovers down, Tharpe might have another way to help his chances of staying on the floor if he's able to better feed the Jayhawks' center.


Jonathan Allison 7 years, 10 months ago

It will be very interesting to see if this trend continues as the season unfolds.

I know that this has been defined before, but what is the dividing line when Withey makes a play in the post that he gets credit for an unassisted shot. Does it has to do with whether or not he dribbles? Is it dependent on how long he has possession? Because it's pretty evident that for him to have the ball on the offensive side of the court the ball has to either be inbounded to him, passed to him during live action, or he has to grab an offensive rebound or loose ball.

So did the three unassisted shots come off of inbounds plays and loose balls? Or did he receive a pass and then make an individual play to get to the basket?

Jesse Newell 7 years, 10 months ago

It definitely depends on the scorer at each school, but I found the NCAA definition at this link and posted it below.

Typically, unassisted plays will be what you mentioned above: receiving a pass and making an individual play to get to the basket.

"A player is credited with an assist when the player makes, in the judgment of the statistician, the principal pass contributing directly to a field goal (or an awarded score of two or three points). ... Such a pass should be either (a) a pass that finds a player free after he or she has maneuvered without the ball for a positional advantage, or (b) a pass that gives the receiving player a positional advantage he or she otherwise would not have had. Philosophy. An assist should be more than a routine pass that just happens to be followed by a field goal. It should be a conscious effort to find the open player or to help a player work free. There should not be a limit on the number of dribbles by the receiver. It is not even necessary that the assist be given on the last pass. There is no restraint on the distance or type of shot made, for these are not the crucial factors in determining whether an assist should be credited."

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 10 months ago

Thanks. That helps me understand how he can score without an assist.

Ron Prichard 7 years, 10 months ago

I totally didn't recognize Kevin Young in the pictures above.

Jesse, as opposed to comparing Withey's assisted baskets to TRob or another KU teammate, how would he compare to other true centers? I would think a majority of a center's baskets would have to be assisted as they usually don't dribble much, they get the ball near the basket, and they typically don't have many breakaway opportunities. I'm not sure if that is an easily available stat or not, but I was just curious.

Thanks for the different statistical analyses each week. I love these!

Jesse Newell 7 years, 10 months ago

Good question.

A big thing is who we consider as centers and not forwards. It's hard to actually pick out other good centers, as there just aren't that many out there.

Here are a few, with their layup/dunk assisted percentage from Hoop-Math:

West Virginia's Aaric Murray: 23%
Kentucky's Nerlens Noel: 50%
Baylor's Isaiah Austin: 56%

Any other big ones you can think of?

VancouverHawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Here are a couple from last year:

Ohio State's Sullinger: 58% Kentucky's A. Davis: 61%

Whitey's seems to stand out.

Ron Prichard 7 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for the info! About the only other one that I can think of off the top of my head is Caleb Tarkewczxswkzchski at Arizona, but I'm not sure how much he has been playing. I'm pretty surprised at how low some of these are. After looking at these, Withey really does stand out.

The real question then becomes, will this kind of analysis hurt Withey's NBA stock? Is he a guy that can't create his own shot? Or, is that even a big concern since his biggest value is as a rebounder and shot blocker.

beware0fph0g 7 years, 10 months ago

What about Bachynski at ASU? He posted a Withey-esque triple double last week.

chriz 7 years, 10 months ago

I'd expect the assist percentage to go down a bit after Withey focuses this semester on post moves instead of class work. I've never been impressed at his ability to "fight" for the post past like the Twins and TRob did, and I think a lot of Tyshawn's turnovers last year were unfairly credited to him, whereas Withey should've caught a lot of them and was simply out of position. My guess is that if he could do a better job of establishing position, his point total would increase (I guess that's obvious).

So I think he's got the ability to improve his post moves more so than his ability to establish position. That said, I think the other guys will figure him out more and make more conservative post passes to him, and still, eventually, he'll score more points.

nuleafjhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Who feeds Jeff Withey the best?


I see where this is going now.

I was going to say his mom.

AsadZ 7 years, 10 months ago

Jesse, Can you also show a statistic where EJ/Tharpe and KY were on the floor with Withey at the same time. As an example, EJ is the starter and he shares a lot of mins with Withey however that can't be said for Tharpe.

So out of Tharpe's 135 minutes how many minutes were shared with Withey. This will give a more clear picture of his assistance to Withey.

Jesse Newell 7 years, 10 months ago

I don't know of a place that has that, and it's going to be hard to do especially because not all box scores post complete substitutions.

I looked at the last two games, and before Withey was checked out for good against Colorado, Tharpe was in three minutes with him and five minutes without him.

Against Oregon State, all eight of Tharpe's minutes were with Withey in.

Withey plays 73 percent of KU's minutes overall, and because he and Tharpe don't play the same position, I would think Tharpe's minutes with Withey might be slightly lower, but not significantly lower. No matter how you slice it, I'd say he still has had plenty of opportunity in his 135 minutes to get more than two assists to Withey.

fhqwhgads 7 years, 10 months ago


this is interesting, but playing time i think is a much bigger concern to your conclusion than you give it credit for. also, the correct metric here wouldn't be a player's playing time, but rather his playing time with withey also on the floor. so tharpe's limited assists to withey may be surprising, but really, if he plays a lot of mop-up time or just happens to play a lot of his minutes without withey on the floor, it would be pretty hard for him to have assists to withey. i know this is probably beyond the score of what you want to do for a short article, but just something to think about.

VaJay 7 years, 10 months ago

I doubt that "mop up time" has much impact at all on the analysis. Naadir has been on the floor substantially during the flow of the game, and typically, it's been Rio, Evan, Tyler, & others on at the end of blowouts.

You can just tell that EJ is more under control when driving & more aware of his teammates' locations on the floor. Tharpe is still too "sped up" at times & doesn't see these things.

Jesse - this is great stuff & really gets us all thinking a little deeper about how we win games.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 10 months ago

I might toss out that the most important "feeders" may be KY and Ellis .. meaning the effectiveness of our offense in the post will be built on how many times our 4 can deliver the ball to Withey for a bucket. Either high/low, or block to block.

VaJay 7 years, 10 months ago

KY's feeds to Withey have been marvelous at times & have really taken the defense by surprise. I think the "big to big" assists are the most fun to watch - maybe cause I've always been a "big" on the floor ;)

Sam Burns 7 years, 10 months ago

Very interesting article. I'm wondering how those stats compare with Aldrich when he played also under Self's system.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 10 months ago

17% of Withey's baskets are on OR. I'm going to speculate that TRob had twice as many OR's as Withey which therefore would correlate very well with the difference in %of Assisted baskets (78 vs. 60).

It has less to do about O moves as it does about OR.

jaybate 7 years, 10 months ago

What stands out to me are: a) our wings aren't feeding him much; and b) our only good trey shooter is way ahead in feeding Jeff.

These imply defense stretchers create feeding opps.

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 10 months ago

my mental imagery of EJ feeding Withey has him at the free-throw extended and Withey posted on the block on EJ's side of the court with his man either fronting him or between him and the basket, and EJ lobs the ball toward the low near corner of the backboard and Withey catches it for an easy layup off the glass.

REHawk 7 years, 10 months ago

If I were to advise Rio Adams, I think I might suggest that for every freshman urge to dribble behind the back I would instead flic the ball toward the upper corner of the backboard for the big guy to slam it home. That is, if Rio ever again makes it onto the floor with Withey in the lineup.

jaybate 7 years, 10 months ago


Listen to this Coach!!!!!!

He knows something about getting athletic guards ready for D1. :-)

jaybate 7 years, 10 months ago

Solid break down. I learned something from the 5Bs. Thanks.

JayHawkJay82 7 years, 10 months ago

While two assists for Tharpe seem excessively low, I wonder if his starts are being skewed by the amount of minutes he actually shares with Jeff Withey.

It seems to me that when E.J. is out getting a rest, that is the time that Self will pull Withey as well. So while Tharpe definitely needs more assists to Withey, I wonder if the low number are more due to the fact that he doesn't share the court with him as often as E.J.

Is there a way to find out how many of Tharpe's minutes (135) came with Withey on the floor?

Robin Smith 7 years, 10 months ago

all I want to see is completion percentage for passes, from mid-range to perimeter, into the post.

imo this is the most important and difficult pass to make

wrwlumpy 7 years, 10 months ago

Phog used to run the high/low offense. Here he is practicing the low portion.

Curtis Stutz 7 years, 10 months ago

Excellent article Jesse. Only negative is it makes me wonder what W's Offensive Rebounding % is, doesn't seem high enough (drgnslyr hit on this). Of course we all should be happy how W has avoided foul trouble and between KYo, JamTray and Ellis they should be providing the majority of the offensive rebounding effort.

You're spot on about the learning curve of feeding the post. The most impressive stat in here (even though he plays big minutes) is BMac having a solid contribution to W's FGs. It was hard to watch the team at times last year as guys like Releford, EJ, Teahan and TT tried to improve their accuracy of post passing, but they all made huge strides. Young just seems to be a natural passer and has shown good chemistry with both TRob and W over the past couple seasons with his post passing. That chemistry could easily factor into Ellis not getting as many minutes as some would like to see. The fact that EJ, TR and BM are capable post passers should equate to continued production from W who has shown improvement sealing off his man. His defender has to worry about the ball swinging around the perimeter and having to deny W from all angles.

drgnslyr makes an interesting point about W not putting it on the floor as much, but I think that's greatly a result of establishing better position and receiving more accurate passes. If a pass throws him off his spot there's a good chance he's going to bounce it a couple times rather than go right up with it. As Robin Smith said, one of the most difficult but important passes is from outside in, and accuracy is the name of the game. It's one thing to get it to the big man, entirely different to get it where he wants it on time.

Part of the reason the wings aren't feeding W as much is because they often get the ball with enough of an advantage to look to score. We all know BMac isn't shy about shooting it or driving and TRele has been much more aggressive this season.

wrwlumpy 7 years, 10 months ago

Jeff didn't score a lot against CU, but his passing for someone 7' is fantastic. The one underneath to KY, the Backdoor on the inbounds to Ben and starting the break after a block when Ben made a second great pass for a Travis dunk. No wonder CBS Sports has him ranked 3rd as player of the year.

monkeehawkSL8 7 years, 10 months ago

Dennis Johnson used to pass inside to Larry off the glass. All Bird had to do was be fronted on his man. DJ would toss the ball off the backboard, proper angle included. Because the pass height was increased the possibility of a steal was decreased. With Jeffs volley ball ex/ this might help the team increase their post feed? Anyone?

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