We’re trying to determine the best KU player in the last 20 years. Here’s a brief recap of how we’re doing it.
We are taking the Final Four from each of the recent brackets on this site (Thomas Robinson, Jeff Withey, Brandon Rush, and Mario Chalmers from the Self bracket and Paul Pierce, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich, and Raef LaFrentz from the Roy bracket) and pitting these goliaths of Kansas basketball against each other to determine the best player of the last 20 years.
The four players from each era were put into a random generator (random.org) and listed as numbers one through four. The ones were pitted against each other, the twos will square off, and so on. For the semi-finals, the four winners will be again put into the random generator (in order of highest percentage of votes) and the two semi-final matchups will be set.
The second matchup that the generator created is a true matchup in contrasts: Jeff Withey against Kirk Hinrich. Withey was eliminated in the semi-finals of the Self-era bracket while Hinrich was defeated in the championship match in the Roy bracket.
You’re unlikely to find a matchup in this competition that features two players so drastically different from each other. In Jeff Withey, you have a transfer who played sparingly in his first two seasons at Kansas and then became one of the most dominant forces, especially defensively, in college basketball in his final two seasons.
Withey’s junior season of 2011-12 was his coming out party. That season he led the Big 12 in blocks with 140, which was good enough for second best in the country. He ranked first in block percentage at 15.3%. He was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and wound up as a third team all-conference performer. He scored 9.0 points per game, grabbed 6.3 rebounds each game, and swatted 3.6 shots per contest. Spread out over 40 minutes, his stats look like this: 15.5/10.8/5.6. KU went all the way to the 2012 NCAA title game, thanks in great part to Jeff Withey.
Withey returned for his senior year and put up even better numbers. He averaged 13.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks per game (17.8/11.0/5.1 over 40 minutes). He led the country in blocks with 146 and his 3.9 blocks per game were the best in the NCAA in 2012-13. He repeated as the Big Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and was named as a first team All-Big 12 performer. He took home the National Defensive Player of the Year prize that year as well and was awarded a spot on the second team All-American squad.
Over his career, he was the career leader in blocks in Big 12 history, and he did it with only two seasons as a starter where he played significant minutes.
On the other side of the coin we have Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich was known for his offensive play making abilities and his shooting. His final three seasons at Kansas were his best statistically as he averaged over 30 minutes per game over that stretch. Still, in his freshman season of 1999-2000, he played 21 minutes per game and scored at a 5.5 points per game clip while dishing out 3.6 assists per game. Spread out over 40 minutes, Kirk’s freshman numbers become respectable at 10.4 and 6.7.
He made the jump statistically in his sophomore year where his numbers ballooned to 11.5 points and 6.9 assists per game (14.0 and 8.4 over 40 minutes) and he was a member of the third team All-Big 12. That 6.9 assist average led the Big 12 that season and his 229 total assists also led the conference. The 2000-01 season also saw Hinrich shoot over 50% from three-point land (55 of 109). He also led the Big 12 in free throw percentage at 84.3%.
Kirk improved again in his junior campaign and he helped lead Kansas to its first final four since 1993. That year, he scored 14.8 points and dished out 5.0 assists per contest (19.1 and 6.5 over 40 minutes) but those statistics improved in 2002-03, Kirk’s senior year. That season he was asked to score more and finished with an average of 17.3 points per game and 3.5 assists per game (20.7 and 4.2 over 40 minutes).
Most astonishing however is the fact that Kirk Hinrich led the Big 12 in true shooting percentage (the measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws) in each of his junior and senior seasons and his 61.6% TS is the best in the history of the Big 12.
So, who’s it going to be? Withey or Hinrich? Vote in the poll below until Wednesday at midnight KU time.