Building confidence

After waiting patiently behind prolific talents such as Cole Aldrich, the Morris Twins and Thomas Robinson, junior center Jeff Withey is healthy, happy and eager to at last lay claim to big minutes - and big responsibility - with the Kansas Jayhawks.

This is unfamiliar territory for Jeff Withey.

As a freshman in 2009, the 7-foot center missed several weeks early in the season with a knee injury. Last year, a broken foot kept him sidelined as the season tipped off.

So for the first time in his career as a Kansas Jayhawk, Withey is kicking things off in prime condition, and it feels good.

Really good.

"It's definitely a confidence booster for me just to know that I'm healthy," he explained. "I'm going into the first game fine and not having to worry about that aspect of my body hurting or anything like that."

His good health is fortuitous for Head Coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks, who are counting on the center to have a breakout junior campaign - his first season as a starter and a major player in the Kansas post rotation.

Thus far, Self is pleased with what he's seen from Withey in practice, believing him to be a player capable of scoring 20 points on a given night.

"I mean, he's been here for 2.5 years and he really hasn't played a lot, so I think it's gonna be inconsistent to be honest with you," he said. "But his production level right now has been good. I mean, if we had to get a basket our guys feel as comfortable throwing it to Jeff as anybody - which is positive."

As he's continued to pack on the pounds in the weight room with strength and conditioning coordinator Andrea Hudy - as well as develop his game on the court with Self and Jayhawks assistant coach Danny Manning - Withey believes his most noticeable improvement has come in an intangible area.

"My confidence level has gained a lot, I would say," he said. "Being on the starting team, you have to prepare differently and you look at the game differently. You just have more confidence."

With junior power forward Thomas Robinson questionable for Tuesday's exhibition opener versus Pittsburg State after suffering a hyperextended knee late last week - and guards Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor suspended for the pre-season for a violation of team rules which occurred during the off-season - Withey's importance will be highlighted in the match-up with the Gorillas.

Robinson's importance would undoubtedly make things easier, Withey said, but if the athletic big man is unavailable he's confident he and others will step up in his absence.

"If he can't (play), me, Travis (Releford), Conner (Teahan) and some of the returning guys are going to have a lot more to deal with," he said. "But I think we're able to take that role on."


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