"Defensively, he's amazing," said Horizon High coach Waheed Mitchell. "He can really change a game with his shot blocking ability. He really has great timing. Not athletically, but I'd compare him to Dikembe Mutubo because he can change shots and start the fast break. He's big, but he can also run the court and I think he'll fit into Louisville's style of play real well."
Withey averaged 12 points, 11 rebounds and 4.9 blocked shots per game as a sophomore, leading San Diego's Horizon High School to the CIF Division IV state title. He also blocked 142 shots and made more than 60 percent of his shots last season, earning Newcomer of the Year honors in San Diego.
"I was a little surprised Louisville took him this early, but he's 7'0 and skilled," Scout.com analyst Jeff Goodman said. "It's hard to get a skilled guy with size these days so you take them when you can."
Withey had plenty of big time college suitors besides Louisville. Kansas had him out recently for their Midnight Madness and Arizona had him on their campus over the summer. Georgetown, Washington and Notre Dame were also involved.
"He's skilled," Mitchell said. "He can hit the midrange jumper and play facing the basket."
Ask around and you'll quickly discover why Withey is considered one of the top center prospects in the junior class nationally.
"His potential and work ethic are great," said Mitchell. "He's going to be a good player. He wants to be in a program where there are other great players and they'll help him get the most out of his potential."
His potential was never more apparent than it was against San Joaquin in the sectional finals last season. Withey had a monster game against and the highly-touted Stanford-bound Lopez (7'0 Brook, a McDonald's All-American and 7'0 Robin) twins, posting 14 points and 13 boards to lead his team to a big win.
"He battled and wanted to win that game badly," Mitchell said. "He fought through foul trouble and it was a challenge, but he was focused and determined to win that game."
Over the summer, Withey made the underclass All-Star game at the talent-laden adidas Superstar Camp, and enters his junior season rated one of the top two centers – along with Andy Poling – out west.
"I think he's got a shot at being really good," Goodman said. "He's a little awkward right now, but he somewhat reminds me of former Stanford star Matt Harasz. He runs the court well and he's pretty skilled, but he's got to get tougher and stronger."
That's something Mitchell says his young big man is determined to do.
"He's getting stronger in the weight room and that will help him to do more in the paint," he said. "He a competitor and has the drive to be the best. He's a pretty good player now, but he is only going to get better with time."
That's why Pitino was all too happy to lock up Withey a year before he can sign a binding national letter of intent.
"Jeff was ready to get his decision behind him," Mitchell said. "Louisville is a great program and he knew Rick Pitino could get the most out of his potential. I think Louisville is a great fit for him."