Jeff Withey Quietly Putting Up NPOY Numbers, Especially on the Defensive EndPosted by KoryCarpenter on November 30th, 2012
For his first couple of years in a Kansas uniform, senior center Jeff Withey’s game reflected his nonchalant personality to a fault. A California native, Withey transferred from Arizona in December of 2008 and became eligible midway through the 2009-10 season. He was a non-factor for almost two years, averaging 2.3 PPG and 1.8 RPG in 2010-11 as a sophomore. Two years later, his personality is still the same. After the Jayhawks defeated North Carolina last season to advance to the Final Four, Withey was speaking with a few media members on the court of the Edward Jones Dome as players celebrated and people searched for a ladder. “Excuse me,” Withey told the reporters after a few questions. “I have to go cut down the net.”
Withey knows every team-first cliché in the book. He rarely talks about his numbers or dominant defense, but somebody needs to, because Withey is becoming one of the best defenders college basketball has seen in years. Last season, Withey broke the all-time NCAA Tournament record with 31 blocks in six games. He has only gotten better this year, blocking 37 shots through the season’s first six games. C.J. Moore of CBSSports.com found that if Withey was a team all by himself, he would rank 13th in the country in blocked shots. A year after Anthony Davis won nearly every National Player of the Year Award for his defense and shotblocking ability, Withey is putting up similar numbers this season.
Here are Davis’ numbers last year: 14.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG, and 4.7 BPG. Withey is currently at 14.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 6.1 BPG.
Of course, Davis averaged those numbers through 40 games and led his team to a national championship. Withey has played just six games, four against non-power conference opponents. But if Withey can stay close to his current pace for the next three months, he should be in the discussion for National Player of the Year along with guys like Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Duke’s Mason Plumlee (RTC’s Award Tour has Withey ranked at #8 as of today). However, things like Player of the Year voting can become somewhat of popularity contest. As a defensive-minded player, Davis was an outlier as a Player of the Year winner. But he had considerable hype coming out of high school, the additional hype of playing on a great Kentucky team, the added hype of playing for a PR genius like John Calipari, and a unibrow. Withey is unassuming, but his blocks are no different. Instead of putting a soft shot attempt into the third row and ending up on SportsCenter, Withey isn’t giving his opponent another possession very often. Over 70 percent of his blocks stay with the Jayhawks given his ability to softly tip the ball to a teammate or keep it himself. It’s hardly noticeable at times and definitely not highlight-worthy, but its positive impact on games can’t be overstated. Now we’ll have to wait and see if NPOY voters take notice.