This week’s focus will be on Kansas Jayhawks center, Jeff Withey. Through the first ten games of the season, Withey is averaging 14.1 points per game, 8.1 rebounds, and an astounding 5.4 blocks. He’s had several games with five or more blocks. To say Withey is a defensive anchor would be an understatement. He cleans up a lot of mistakes and breakdowns by the perimeter defenders with his defensive rotations. Not only does he do it with size, but it certainly helps to have a 7’ 1.5” wingspan to contest, alter, and block shots with. Another remarkable part of Withey’s early season play has been his ability to stay out of foul trouble, which allows him to stay on the floor for 32+ minutes per game.
Withey is an efficient scorer with a soft touch around the rim. Not only is he scoring more, he’s also drawing more fouls and going to the free throw line more. In fact, he is enjoying career highs in minutes, field goal attempts, and free throw attempts. According to Synergy, he is logging 1.12 points per possession through his ten games. His shots are coming in the paint, which explains the high shooting percentage. Withey favors posting up on the left block a little too much, but it is clearly in his comfort zone. He shows a few good moves out of his post ups, including a drop stop to the baseline and hook shot. His strength and size allow him to pin defenders and take passes over the top for easy baskets. He has range out to the elbows, but not enough consistency. He shoots them in rhythm, but clearly favors to play with his back to the basket.
The thing I like most about Withey is that he isn’t afraid of contact. He can finish strong around the rim even with a lot of hands slapping at the ball. He’s smart enough not to bring the ball down on offensive rebounds, which is something I see too many big men do.
Withey has backup center written all over him. An NBA comparison at this point would be Omer Asik, especially when it comes to defense and rebounding. Withey is slightly more polished than Asik offensively, and any offense he provides to the team that drafts him will be a bonus. Withey rotates well to cover drivers and he shows out and recovers on high ball screens. He is projected to be a late first round to early second round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. If he continues his strong play for the remainder of the season, he will certainly be playing in the NBA. Kansas has a tough test coming up against Ohio State, where he will likely match up with Evan Ravenel, Amir Williams, and Deshaun Thomas.
Amit Tailor is a Scout and covers the Big-12 for NetScouts Basketball.