When Phog.net spoke to Kansas head coach Bill Self Sunday he admitted Jeff Withey was likely still "a couple weeks away" from being full speed and full strength.
But no one can deny that his surgically repaired right foot and his
initial performance of the season showed promise.
"Jeff surprised us all tonight because he hasn't really been able to
move," Self said. "But he played good. I'll be honest I didn't know for
sure that I'd play him that much. I thought I was just going to put him
in a couple of minutes. I think the adrenaline made him feel a little
The adrenaline rush helped Withey score 8 points on perfect shooting
from the floor in 12 impressive minutes of play. He also grabbed 3
rebounds, came up with 2 steals, dished out 2 assists, and managed a
blocked shot against a smaller Longwood team in a blowout win for KU on
"We expect even more," Tyshawn Taylor told reporters after the game
Thursday. "I think once he gets fully healthy and gets a little more in
shape and more conditioned he's going to be awesome. And you're going
to see stuff like that for the rest of the year."
Withey has been out of the lineup and out of most of conditioning and
practice since late September and Self was careful not to rush Withey
and his broken foot. But after seeing the 7-0 Arizona transfer who's
been eligible since the second semester of last season, play those 12
minutes vs. Longwood, Jeff's recovery process may have just gained a
head of steam.
"We all think he's healed," said Taylor with a chuckle. "It's him that
doesn't think he's healed. He's the one trying to hobble on it and
stuff. He came in and played well tonight and I think it might be bad
for him that he did that because coach might be on him a little harder
"The great thing about this and the bad thing for him was that he
showed us that he can run, jump, and be full speed," said Self
affirming what Taylor remarked. "So now when he says he can't do it
then he won't have a built in excuse."
Withey would help solve a "big" concern – literally. Cole Aldrich was
the human eraser in the middle of the KU defense for the last few
years. Great defensive teams are privy to a big man anchoring the
defense who swats away anyone daring to drive the lane. A 7-0 cushion
allows the perimeter players to pressure up on the ball without much of
a conscious because they know there's always back up waiting.
"I don't know how much he'll play but we need some length and he is
long," Self stated.
"If he keeps playing like that I think he brings something else to our
team that we don't have. You've got a shot blocker back there and a guy
that can get rebounds and help Marcus and Markieff rebound so him, the
twins and Trob together that's a good frontline," Taylor confirmed.
"One other thing tonight he went after the ball like a man too, going
after some boards and things like that. He's going to make us better,"
Self found out early in the exhibition season his frontline may have a
hard time playing behind in the post against skilled post players.
Withey could be a big lift in that area. If the post defenders are not
capable of playing behind Self may have to go to the big-to-big double
earlier than he'd like to this season.
Withey spent a year banging with Aldrich in the post and Self believes
Jeff's impact could equate to more than what Cole's was a freshman. He
likely won't be a double-double guy but if he comes in and puts up
numbers similar to his Longwood production it will go a long way to
making KU a better defensive squad.
"When he gets 100 percent – he's probably 70-80 percent right now –
when he gets to be 100 percent he'll do some really good things
defensively," Self said.
Even if Withey doesn't become a staple in the Kansas rotation he's a
valuable asset, as he was a year ago, in practice everyday testing his
teammates and providing adequate resistance in the lane.
"The thing he does as much as anything, he makes it hard to score in
practice. It's hard to score over him and that's good for our guys to
go against that," continued Self.
Withey will be looking for consistency and the ability to play more
valuable minutes on a regular basis. He showed signs of life at home
against Nebraska last season and on the road at Iowa State. If the
Jayhawks see more of that Withey and the one who played last Thursday,
it will go a long way to making KU better on the end of the floor Self
deems the most important to continued success.
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