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
"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
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."
Withey Helps Bring Big-Man Depth
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