No this is another player that has come on strong in the pas couple of weeks, I am talking about the big man in Kansas no not Thomas Robinson but Jeff Withey. Last year I was doing evaluations for the 2011 NBA draft breaking down tape late at night. Kansas was on my computer screen as the Morris twins were the next on the report list. I noticed a big kid that didn’t get much time , but caught my eye with his activity level. He had everything a big man needed size, strength, activity, and not afraid to mix it up. The first thing that I did was check out his numbers , which were less than flattering. I immediately called one of my best friends that was an assistant with a team in his conference and asked him about Withey. He told me that he was decent, but very far away. He asked me what I thought and I told him the truth that in the short time that I watched him he should be a lottery pick in the 2011 draft. He thought I was nuts and should continue to watch him. I remember back to other players that I quickly made judgments on had some hits (Tyrus Thomas,Paul Milsap, and Roy Hibbert) and some misses (Patrick O’Bryant, Joey Graham, and DaJuan Summers*jury isn’t out yet on him). Wanting to make sure that I didn’t jump the gun I continued to watch. Yes he was a little quirky sometimes on the court and seemed to be distant at times there was something that I really liked. I think at the end of the day my friend thought I was crazy which wouldn’t be the first or the last time people would think this of me. Sometimes it’s not the stats a player puts up or what others have to tell you about them, but just a hunch or feeling you get when watching them. With Jeff it jumped out at me he will make it based on his energy and size.
There have been many blog posts on this site about activity in big men. I don’t think there can ever be a word that can make or break a post player’s career than that one. This game is all about production and looking the part. If you want to get to the highest-level possible you need to start looking the part. In big men its simply rebounding the ball, moving your feet, and being active.
The skill that can get Jeff Withey in a game is his ability to rebound at a high level, block shots, and score around the basket. I don’t think he’ll be the type of player where coaches will run plays to him that’s not his skill set. He’ll run the floor, clean up misses for put-backs, and duck in on the weakside for hooks in the lane. Sometimes you have to look past the weaknesses a player has and understand that most players have 1 skill that they bring to the table. Win or lose Jeff Withey brings energy every night and plays hard. He may never be a consistent scoring option, but he will always rebound and block shots.
If I am picking in the mid to late lottery as an NBA GM it will be tough to pass on Jeff Withey. His size, ability to rebound, and activity will make it almost impossible to fail. Every player is a mystery in some way so I guess there is no guarantee. Obviously it’s a little scary when a player doesn’t looked engaged every night, but I think with his present success maybe the light will go on that he can do that every night. If his last three games are any indication (25 pts 5 rebs 3 blks vs Baylor, 18 pts 20 rebs 7 blks vs OK State, and 18 pts 11 rebs 9 blks vs KSU) of what he can do every night Withey can play for a long time. I think he can be a better Andris Biedrins or at least Jeff Foster.
Sometimes when you are evaluating players at any level the can’t miss stars are always on your mind. You may want to take a chance on that player who has a bad attitude or low energy level because they have star potential. Then there are the players that may or may not be great but won’t fail. I think the third option sums up Jeff Withey. I think a team at the high school, college, or pro level need players like Jeff because they play hard every night, don’t need the ball in their hands, and they have size. I think Jeff will have a long career playing baring injury or any other fluke incident.
This is yet another example of a player that will make it not because they are a phenom but because they have size, play hard, and are active on every play. There are places for big men like this at every level and it’s a shame not every post player wouldn’t take this to heart. If you have size and play focused with effort and energy you can play for a long time. Hopefully this will be the article that wakes someone up, if not bet your ass there will be another.