Welcome to the Withey block party, Withey strong, Fake Jeff Withey...anything I'm missing? Three seasons ago Jeff Withey was still waiting his turn. He was behind the scenes after transferring from Arizona and there were high hopes, but nothing to really build off of. About the only thing we ever really heard about when it came to Jeff Withey is that he got to eat as many cheeseburgers as he wanted in a day because he couldn't gain weight.
Then 2011-2012 happened. Kansas was led by Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, but Jeff Withey emerged as a viable man in the middle. It didn't come right away, but after a mid season challenge by Bill Self, something seemed to click more and more often for the seven footer and he ended the year with an incredible defensive effort helping Kansas in their run to the championship game.
In one season Withey had gone from an afterthought to a huge returning piece as Kansas fans looked forward to 2012-2013. It's actually a story that plays out over and over in Lawrence with Bill Self. A player that maybe hasn't broken into the lineup or perhaps one that has been sitting behind some other future NBA draft pick eventually emerges as an NBA draft prospect and a great player in their own right. That's exactly where we're at with Jeff Withey today.
Withey was the one consistent piece all weekend in what was a grind in out style weekend for the Jayhawks. Yes others stepped up at different times, but Jeff Withey was once again a defensive monster and offensively he provided a lift when Kansas needed it. What happened to Withey?
It's a classic Bill Self story. A player waits his turn, emerges all the better for it. Jeff Withey has gone from a passive, quiet big man to an aggressive force at times. He's not Thomas Robinson in terms of his aggression and he's not the Morris twins when it comes to swagger, but Jeff Withey fights back in his own way and he's playing with the confidence that you hope to see out of a fifth year senior. Throw an elbow, he'll come back at you. This is a system built to create great college big men and it's a system that puts big men in the NBA. Jeff Withey has just made the most of every minute in that system and it's paying off for everyone involved.
There was a time where you'd be hard pressed to find Jeff Withey attacking the basket with the kind of force that leads to an opposing player moving out of the way. That happened last night. Somebody looked a little scared. It felt like a turning point in the game. Kansas moves on to play another weekend and Withey continues to elevate his place among some of the best Kansas big men.