Monday, July 2, 2012

Jeff Withey relishes camp, block


Jeff Withey starts his story with the good news: During two-on-two drills a week and a half ago, he blocked six-time NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire on a shot attempt.

So what happened after that?

“He went back and then he hit a jumper on me,” Withey said with a laugh. “But, yeah, I got him once.”

Withey, Kansas University’s senior center, learned quite a bit from trying to defend the New York Knicks’ star during Stoudemire’s Skills Academy in Chicago, which ran June 21-23.

“I was amazed how quick he is,” Withey said. “He’s not that much bigger than everybody else. He’s just extremely fast. I think that’s the difference between the NBA and college is just quickness.”

Withey’s biggest takeaway from the weekend was realizing which skills he needs to develop the most.

For the first two days, the big men primarily went through NBA-type workouts, which included focus on their face-up games in the post.

“Everything is so much further away from the basket than you’re used to,” Withey said. “(It’s) definitely getting that mind-set of, if you do catch it out, attack the rim as soon as possible.”

Making it even harder to concentrate was the setting. Each day during the pair of two-hour sessions, at least 20 NBA scouts were in attendance to get a look at some of next year’s top pro prospects.

“It’s definitely nerve-wracking, because they’re just down there writing stuff down. You want to know what they’re writing down,” Withey said. “It was a good experience for sure. It was definitely a good way to show your talent.”

Quite a few players were trying to do the same thing during the Saturday scrimmage, which made it more difficult for Withey to stand out.

“Whenever somebody has the ball, they want to shoot. You just have to get offensive rebounds if you want to score,” Withey said. “I felt like I did pretty well. Definitely good defensively. Offensively, I hit open jumpers. I did what I could.”

Last year at the Stoudemire Skills Academy scrimmage, former Kansas forward Thomas Robinson received a lot of attention after putting down a one-handed, alley-oop dunk off a feed from Scoop Jardine.

Though it didn’t receive the same Twitter buzz, Withey’s highlight came when trying to prevent a fast-break bucket.

“They went up to try to dunk it, and I blocked it. It hit the backboard and flew all the way to half-court,” Withey said with a smile. “Everybody was just like, ‘Ooh. Aah.’ It was pretty cool.”

Withey helped as a high-school counselor at the event with 13 other college big men, including Duke’s Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas.

Before he battled him in drills, Stoudemire approached Withey, telling him that he’d played well in the NCAA championship game before wishing him luck for the upcoming season.

“You don’t realize ... everybody watches those games,” Withey said. “It’s definitely cool to hear something like that from somebody that you look up to.”

Withey will be picking up more NBA instruction soon, as Sunday he accepted an invitation to the upcoming LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas.

The camp, which runs Friday through Monday, features skill-development work and competition for the top 20 college basketball players in the country.


kellerman411 9 years, 10 months ago

You heard it here first from kellerman411. If Jeff Withey can maintain the muscle that he is currently putting on this off season, he will be drafted number 1 overall. I know it's bold but heck the guy would have easily been top 20 in this draft. I'm also assuming that his footwork improves the way that it has been improving.

The guy is a real 7 footer. He has a few strong post moves. If you put him on the free throw line he will absolutely murder you. He has good timing and leaping ability to block shots. His character is an A+.

ku1otaku 9 years, 10 months ago

No offense man, but you've got to be the only person who thinks Withey can go number 1. I really hope he continues to develop (because that means great things for KU), but I don't think he has a shot at the #1 pick.

Robert Brock 9 years, 10 months ago

The number one player will be Nerlens Noel.

Clarence Haynes 9 years, 10 months ago

I think that kellerman411 meant that Withey is a first rounder not 1st overall.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 10 months ago

Review the other ref to top 20.

He said what he meant, and while it's nice to see the enthusiasm, the reality is that the NBA still drafts potential. As a senior, there is tons more reality, but not as much potential.

Jack Wilson 9 years, 10 months ago

I do think he meant number one overall .. "he will be drafted number 1 overall" is what he said.

Cole Hogan 9 years, 10 months ago

and i quote: "he will be drafted number 1 overall."

This means frst overall, not just first round in general

jaybate 9 years, 10 months ago

Or Withey, if he bulks up down low to sustain position on the blocks and gets a money move on the block. He's that good otherwise.

hawk316 9 years, 10 months ago

Although I don't think he'll be number one, if he develops "a money move on the block," as jaybate opines, he should have a strong season and be a 1st rounder. He already has some significant strengths (defense and free throw shooting), but needs to continue to develop offensively. But hey, the man is working on it. Love it that he's attending all these camps. Soak it all up, big fella.

Freedman Moor 9 years, 10 months ago

Withey will need ALOT more than muscle development to be drafted number one overall. Most notably he'll need, to become ALOT more coordinated; he'll need ALOT more offensive skill and consistency; he'll need to become a dominant rebounder; he'll need to add more explosiveness to his lower body; and he'll need to extend his offensive and defensive range out to about 18-feet--he'll need to be able to score and defend on the perimeter. If he does all of that, then he'll be viewed in the same light as the prohibitive favorites such as, Nerlens Noel, Shabazz Muhammed, and Isaiah Austin (who's more skilled and taller than Noel).

If all that doesn't seem daunting enough, Withey's most difficult (and unlikely) task will be to shift paradigms. Changing minds can be like moving mountains. The entire NBA world has their minds set on certain guys and they have proven to place little value in seniors.

That's way too much for one summer.

jaybate 9 years, 10 months ago

Post again when you get off your period, mister. :-)

John Randall 9 years, 10 months ago

At this point, about 25 players could put together the kind of season that would have them at the top of the list. Jeff is one of them. One factor holding down his draft potential is that he's a fifth year senior, while many of the others are up to four years younger and thus appear to have more upside yet to be realized. It will be a lot tougher for him on the offensive boards without T-Rob drawing double teams on the other side of the lane. His offense will be a lot more on him to make more of his own opportunities. I have no such reservations about his defense.

jaybate 9 years, 10 months ago

i 2 beeg fan uv JWith. Heee kan gard post and swat 4sure. But... we must c heem sustain position on blocks, rebound, and be a scoring threat without Superman b4 we dirty our drawers in awe!!

ccarp 9 years, 10 months ago

Glad to hear the defensive timing is still there. Adding a jump shot? Great! Gettting faster and stronger is wonderful too. Hopefully maintaining that sweet stroke from the line. I'm most impressed with the confidence he is gaining. Stay focused and humble, Jeff, and great things will come.

Martin Rosenblum 9 years, 10 months ago

His blocking game is what gets him noticed, Aldrich was even better in the block department and look where he was drafted. Plus, look what Cole has been able to do with his career. Withey will be drafted at 7ft and as a multi year Jayhawk player who played behind some real talent. Unless he comes out and ups his scoring average this upcoming season, he will be subject to "footers" from outside the country who will determine his pick status. Had he been in this year's draft, maybe # 50-60. Next June, he'll go 30-40, but still in the second round.

KGphoto 9 years, 10 months ago

Not sure about Aldrich being a better blocker. I think Withey has him there. He only had the one season so far and this year he gets more PT. I also think Withey is a lottery next year.

He's a slightly better shot blocker than this year's overwhelming #1 pick. Davis isn't a great scorer yet either, and has his value based on his defense and hopes that he can develop an offensive game. Even if Withey holds to form and improves slightly, the extra minutes and exposure will ratchet up his numbers and put him in the spot light for a lottery pick.

Look what happened to Meyers Leonard last year. His minutes went through the roof and he became the #11 pick. And even though he played over 30 mpg, he still couldn't put up 2 blks/game, even at 7'1". His averages of 13.6 ppg and 8.2 rpg are okay, but certainly not more impressive than what Withey can easily post this year, and he's no where near the defensive presence Withey is.

Freedman Moor 9 years, 10 months ago

I agree with KGphoto about Aldrich. Withey gets more blocks, but I think that's because more people are willing to test him.

Anthony Davis blocks shots all over the place. In the lane, on the perimiter, and even out to the three point line. He blocked more than 50 shots beyond 15-feet. That's insane! Neither Withey nor Aldrich come even close to that!

jaybate 9 years, 10 months ago

Anthony Davis was one for ten against Jeff. If Davis had that much trouble with Jeff, he is going to have a significant learning curve in the L with grown men at post tending to their pay checks.

As with Jeff, AD will learn that in the NBA you don't get to run around blocking shots just because you can. You have to have an enforcer at your side, and you have to be pretty damn strong and mean yourself.

Freedman Moor 9 years, 10 months ago

I agree, but Davis' pending moment of clarity on the professional level doesn't make Withey a better shot-blocker than Davis. Don't get me wrong, I can't stand UK, but I have to give credit where credit is due. Davis' defensive range saved UK when KU was storming back. That 3 EJ was about to put up was going in. I know it! But when Davis forced EJ to just seems like that play slammed the door shut.

One thing that is absolutely certain (and I'm sure you'll agree) is that Withey (and the rest of KU's squad) received better defensive tutelage. Withey doesn't have nearly the physical gifts as Davis, but did Withey shut him down. Heck, if the squad had one (just one!!) of the three lost freshmen from last year, they would have beaten UK (IMO) despite a HUGE disparity in overall talent and depth.

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 10 months ago

AD was 0-9 against Jeff Withey, the one shot he made was while JW was on the bench.

Also, review his time against other tall people, for someone that was such a lock for the NBA, I thought when he played against heighth his numbers were very poor. Check games like against Indiana and Vandy.

Steve Kubler 9 years, 10 months ago

"The camp, which runs Friday through Monday, features skill-development work and competition for the top 20 college basketball players in the country."

It appears that he is considered in the top 20 by people that should have a pretty good idea of the NBA. If his season is strong as last years I can see him going in the Morrii range of 12-13. If he steps up on offense any at all I'd say top 10. He is in that rare group of footers that can move and as they say, "you can't teach size".

KGphoto 9 years, 10 months ago

I don't know this for sure, but I am assuming that the top 20 doesn't include this year's incoming freshman (Shabazz, Noel, etc.), and it almost certainly doesn't include the European players. That could knock him out of the top 20 pretty quick. But, that's what a year's worth of development is for.

hawksince51 9 years, 10 months ago

Great to see Jeff is working hard on his game. If he improves next year, half as much as he did last year, he should be a first round draft pick. However, I have often been confused by the NBA draft picks.

mikehawk 9 years, 10 months ago

Jeff has to learn to step out and use the touch we see at the FT line, to hit some medium range jumpers on a consistent basis. If he can develop that, with some decent passing, he could have a 10 year pro career and make a ton of money, whether he starts or not. He won't have Thomas taking all of the attention this year, so that reality will make it harder. I am concerned the KU faithful will have expectations which exceed his role and function for this team. I don't see him carrying the scoring load, but will pick his spots and from time to time score in the 20's. He could however, have a bunch of double doubles, and I predict at least one or two triple doubles next year. More strength, increased range on shot, and while he won't be even close to being the #1 pick, he well could go in the low end of the lottery.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 10 months ago

He needs to hit the open FT-line shot when D's sag. They won't sag as much on Ellis or the others as they did on TRob, but Jeff will still need to make the D respect his shot.

Jack Wilson 9 years, 10 months ago

Bingo .. nice post.

And odds are good that Withey's outside shooting will improve, as all of our big men tend to do that from year to year. I can see Jeff scoring 6 one night, 18 the next. But what is consistent, what will get him drafted in that 12 - 25 range, is his shot-blocking and defense. He can bring that every night. And what's better, with the reputation as a shot blocker, much less of a chance of the cheap fouls.

jaybate 9 years, 10 months ago

Where he is drafted depends on weight gain and improvement in performance the shield of Thomas.

If Jeff were to get heavy enough and strong enough to sustain position on the blocks offensively, and improve as much as TRob and the Morri did their last seasons, then it is pretty hard to imagine him anywhere but 1 to 5 in the draft. But these are big ifs to fulfill.

At the post, the NBA drafts length, then strength, then guarding the post, then rebounding then blocking.

But his blocking is so extraordinary that blocking may come before rebounding in his case. Its pretty tough to block and rebound. And power forwards that can board are a dime a dozen in the NBA. So: at team can get a lot of mileage out of a guy like Jeff who will probably gain 20-30 pounds the next five years in the NBA and so gradually be able to do both.

Withey put a 1-10 FGA on this year's Number One draft choice. Even the stupid NBA GMs notice that sort of stat.

But speculation about his draft number is really insignificant in his case. He's going high in the first round. He's going to have a long NBA career, whether as a starter, or a backup. He's gold if he keeps working and avoids serious injuries.

flyingfinn 9 years, 10 months ago

The NBA always has room for 7 footers especially if they can play defense like Jeff. No he probably won't be no. 1 one but I think he will go high in the draft. That being said I am looking forward to this coming season where I think Jeff and the Hawks will again be a force to be heard by the end of the season.

championhawks 9 years, 10 months ago

I agree with Mike, improvement offensively gets JW into the lottery, but I think he will have a hard time cracking the top 10 with the younger talent that could be in the draft. A season that mimics last year will have him drafted later in the first round (20s)

Tony Bandle 9 years, 10 months ago

Let's see....a legit seven footer who can block shots, rebound, set hellacious screens and is a better free throw shooter than over two thirds of the NBA......hmmm....maybe there's a place somewhere for a guy like that.

Posted with no malice and all understatement!!

[Jeff won't be #1 but he will make Ostertag-like career millions for his value as a role player]

hawksince51 9 years, 10 months ago

Maybe, but the Big O was fortunate to be on a team with Malone, Stockton, and others with plenty of scoring. They just needed a big guy at center to take up space, rebound and play D against other team's big men. He was a starter most of his career, not a role player, resulting in some very juicy contracts.

HawkKlaw 9 years, 10 months ago

I never thought I'd be saying this, but Jeff Withey will be the best center in the NCAA this coming season. Not sure if that means he'll be the number 1 overall pick or not, but it does mean that us KU fans can look forward to watching a boatload of wins this season.

In other news, the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning...

Chris1955 9 years, 10 months ago

If he had been available in this year's draft, I think the Houston Rockets would have taken him. We're dying for anything remotely resembling a center.

jaybate 9 years, 10 months ago

I like Amare. A kid blocks his shot and he doesn't break his arm dunking, he just steps out and drops two to remind the kid that if he were really NBA ready he would also be able to come out and deny him the two.

I'm bullish on Jeff and his game, but blocking in college and blocking in the NBA are different activities.

Block someone in college and the opposing team is frustrated and intimidated.

Block someone in the NBA and unless you are built like the Maginot Line, someone is sent for pay back, maybe several.

Heck, Shaq finally just punched OTag flatter than a pancake and that was the end of OTag blocking Laker shots for the rest of his career.

Unless Jeff really becomes a body building freak capable of dealing with massive retaliation, then his shot blocking will be something he will rarely be allowed to do without a brutal counter attack.

Ken Tomberlin 9 years, 10 months ago

The two leading shot blockers in the NBA last year were Serge Ibaka, 6;10", 235 lbs and JaVale McGee, 7"0" 252 lbs

jaybate 9 years, 10 months ago

Jaydoggerel, what other kinds of facts are there than actual ones? Facts are facts. Cease the redundancy. :-)

Joe Ross 9 years, 10 months ago

"Actual" facts as opposed to rubbish masquerading as so.

jaybate 9 years, 10 months ago

Okay, Serge Ibaka has Kendrick Perkins enforcing for him at 6'10" and 270, otherwise Ibaka would already be history.

McGee, at 7' and 270 fits the bill.


jayhawkinATL 9 years, 10 months ago

I'm with you...that placement just boggled my mind. Could lend some credence though to what's been said about the skills/tenacity he's shown in practice.

JayHawkFanToo 9 years, 10 months ago

Why is that surprising? Six of the top ten players have not played College BBall. Unfortunately, that is the way it is going to be until the NBA changes the rules and forces kids to stay in college longer.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 10 months ago

Is it politically incorrect to mock a "mock" draft???? This list is ridiculous!!!

RJ King 9 years, 10 months ago

Well, doesn't ESPN rival the Rivals rankings?

Mike Hart 9 years, 10 months ago

Hey... I'm a Jayhawk fan with the best of them. And I'll be the first to admit that Jeff Withey has improved alot and developed .... and has already come a long way. But he is still not a fluid basketball player. His offensive game is extremely stiff, if not plodding. He doesn't have the quickness nor athleticism to compete with the best athletes in the NBA. He will get pushed around from time to time... and people will go around him. Yes, he's a shot blocker, but let's get real... he may get drafted in the 1st round... but NOWHERE NEAR THE TOP OVERALL PICK. Let's give Withey credit.. .but at the same time... be realistic. You can't teach speed and athleticism.

jaybate 9 years, 10 months ago

~On the subject if rebounding...

Most rebounds in an NBA game:

55 Wilt Chamberlain, PHW vs. BOS 24Nov60

The greatest rebounder of all time set his record against the best team in the league. Couldn't verify if Big Russ got the record hung on him or not.

Jeff, aim high. :-)

~On the subject of Wilt, remember that Wilt is the greatest scorer of all time in the NBA All Time also. Jabbar officially scored the most points, but Jabbar's record should be given an asterisk the same as Roger Maris home run record was, and the same as Bonds, McGwire, et al should be, if their home run records even continue to be listed. Jabbar scored his points in six more seasons than Wilt. Compare Jabbars point total at the point Jabbar played the same number of games that Wilt played at retirement and Wilt is still the greatest scorer of all time. Jordan? Fuggeddaboutit.

Wilt Chamberlain. The final word in scoring, rebounding, and whenever he had a good team around him, winning rings. It is positively scary to think what he would have done had he landed in Boston with Auerbach.

Compare his team's winning percentages when he had a championship quality team around him--the two seasons he won rings. Sky high. The Laker team set the record for highest winning percentage up to that time.

No wimpy MiJor and Big Russ apologists please.

Wilt with MiJor's teams would have won more rings.

Wilt with Big Russ' teams would have won by bigger margins.


The greatest player ever.

jaybate 9 years, 10 months ago

Note: I didn't go back and compare their scores. I just recall reading once that Jabbar was behind Wilt after the same number of games that Wilt retired at. Maybe some eager quant around here will confirm this, or refute it. Thanks in advance either way.

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