Withey's Impact

(Steve Puppe photo)

Center Jeff Withey showed signs of progress in KU's season-opener against Longwood. Find out just how big of an impact Withey could have on KU's defensive prowess this season.

When Phog.net spoke to Kansas head coach Bill Self Sunday he admitted Jeff Withey was likely still "a couple weeks away" from being full speed and full strength.

But no one can deny that his surgically repaired right foot and his initial performance of the season showed promise.

"Jeff surprised us all tonight because he hasn't really been able to move," Self said. "But he played good. I'll be honest I didn't know for sure that I'd play him that much. I thought I was just going to put him in a couple of minutes. I think the adrenaline made him feel a little better."

The adrenaline rush helped Withey score 8 points on perfect shooting from the floor in 12 impressive minutes of play. He also grabbed 3 rebounds, came up with 2 steals, dished out 2 assists, and managed a blocked shot against a smaller Longwood team in a blowout win for KU on Thursday.

"We expect even more," Tyshawn Taylor told reporters after the game Thursday. "I think once he gets fully healthy and gets a little more in shape and more conditioned he's going to be awesome. And you're going to see stuff like that for the rest of the year."

Withey has been out of the lineup and out of most of conditioning and practice since late September and Self was careful not to rush Withey and his broken foot. But after seeing the 7-0 Arizona transfer who's been eligible since the second semester of last season, play those 12 minutes vs. Longwood, Jeff's recovery process may have just gained a head of steam.

"We all think he's healed," said Taylor with a chuckle. "It's him that doesn't think he's healed. He's the one trying to hobble on it and stuff. He came in and played well tonight and I think it might be bad for him that he did that because coach might be on him a little harder now."

"The great thing about this and the bad thing for him was that he showed us that he can run, jump, and be full speed," said Self affirming what Taylor remarked. "So now when he says he can't do it then he won't have a built in excuse."

Withey would help solve a "big" concern – literally. Cole Aldrich was the human eraser in the middle of the KU defense for the last few years. Great defensive teams are privy to a big man anchoring the defense who swats away anyone daring to drive the lane. A 7-0 cushion allows the perimeter players to pressure up on the ball without much of a conscious because they know there's always back up waiting.

"I don't know how much he'll play but we need some length and he is long," Self stated.
 
"If he keeps playing like that I think he brings something else to our team that we don't have. You've got a shot blocker back there and a guy that can get rebounds and help Marcus and Markieff rebound so him, the twins and Trob together that's a good frontline," Taylor confirmed.

"One other thing tonight he went after the ball like a man too, going after some boards and things like that. He's going to make us better," Self said.

Self found out early in the exhibition season his frontline may have a hard time playing behind in the post against skilled post players. Withey could be a big lift in that area. If the post defenders are not capable of playing behind Self may have to go to the big-to-big double earlier than he'd like to this season.

Withey spent a year banging with Aldrich in the post and Self believes Jeff's impact could equate to more than what Cole's was a freshman. He likely won't be a double-double guy but if he comes in and puts up numbers similar to his Longwood production it will go a long way to making KU a better defensive squad.

"When he gets 100 percent – he's probably 70-80 percent right now – when he gets to be 100 percent he'll do some really good things defensively," Self said.

Even if Withey doesn't become a staple in the Kansas rotation he's a valuable asset, as he was a year ago, in practice everyday testing his teammates and providing adequate resistance in the lane.

"The thing he does as much as anything, he makes it hard to score in practice. It's hard to score over him and that's good for our guys to go against that," continued Self.

Withey will be looking for consistency and the ability to play more valuable minutes on a regular basis. He showed signs of life at home against Nebraska last season and on the road at Iowa State. If the Jayhawks see more of that Withey and the one who played last Thursday, it will go a long way to making KU better on the end of the floor Self deems the most important to continued success.

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