Withey Helps Bring Big-Man Depth

The deep Jayhawks will be even deeper second semester when Jeff Withey becomes eligible.

Jeff Withey, a 7-0 redshirt freshman, has been sitting out of action since transferring from Arizona last December.

The big man has had some bad breaks recently. He missed a week of practice with mono shortly before Late Night in the Phog and then suffered a stress fracture in his right knee on Oct. 20, which will keep him out of action four to six weeks.

"Ever since Jeff arrived here last December, he has worked very hard to get bigger and stronger and he won't let this setback stop him," KU coach Bill Self said last Thursday. "The doctors tell me they expect a full recovery and they will evaluate his progress after four weeks."

Despite Withey's knee injury and bout with mono, the San Diego, Calif., native is enjoying Lawrence and KU just fine.

"I love it here," Withey said at KU Media Day on Oct. 15. "I like the seasons. I actually like the snow a little bit. (The) people are just really nice. It's a good, home feeling."

Withey is certainly far from home, where he first gained national attention as a prep star at Horizon High School in San Diego. He averaged 20.8 points, 13.0 rebounds, 7.3 blocks and 4.1 assists per game his senior year while shooting 69 percent from the field. Withey was ranked the No. 8 center by Scout.com and No. 39 overall recruit on Bob Gibbons' All-Star Sports Top 250.

After originally committing to Louisville, Withey signed with Arizona. However, after head coach Lute Olson resigned in preseason, Withey quit the team and eventually transferred to Kansas.

He said KU was the "best fit for me."

"It was pretty much clear cut as to where I should go," Withey said. "Kansas had just won a national championship. You can see how much Cole (Aldrich, junior center) grew in that one year (2007-08), just working with Danny Manning (assistant coach). Me and my parents looked at each other and said Kansas is the best place for me."

KU was actually on his top three list of schools out of high school. Withey even attended Late Night in the Phog his junior year.

"I had goosebumps, and really liked it a lot," Withey said. "But my parents kind of pushed me not to commit on site because every kid wants to do that when he comes here. I took some time off and some things were different. Some things happened at the time, so I needed to stay closer to home.'

Withey admits it was difficult sitting out last season and watching the Jayhawks play, especially the road games since he couldn't travel with the team.

"It's been really, really tough," he said. "It's been almost two years since I played a game. My first game coming back, I'm definitely going to feel the jitters, really scared. But I can't wait to play. It's been too long."

He's projected to be one of the backups to Aldrich at center. Withey said Aldrich pushes him each day in practice.

"Cole is a freak athlete," Withey said. "He's definitely going to be a pro player someday. He's helping me out a lot. He's the toughest guy I've had to guard ever. He's a beast. Playing against him every day is just making me better. I'm getting my hook shot over him, just trying to play defense on him, blocking shots. It's tough, but I like it.'

The 225-pound Withey knows he needs to continue getting stronger. He said he's put on 16 pounds since arriving at KU, and has a target weight of 240.  

So what type of  player can Jayhawk fans expect to see when Withey finally takes the court in December?

"I'll just come in when coach needs me to and I'll do the hustle plays, try to block a lot shots and dunk whenever I can," Withey said. "Do the sloppy work. ... I really like Kevin Garnett (Boston Celtics' star). I like the way he plays. That's kind of how I model my game. I just like how aggressive he is. He's really aggressive. He can shoot the ball, he can drive, he can post up. I just like everything he does."

Withey is also a big fan of Self.

"He's definitely a demanding coach, but he's one of the best in the nation," Withey said. "I respect the guy so much. He's just a great guy to be around. He's a basketball genius, and I'm just glad to be around learning from him."

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