Very few people outside of Lawrence, Kan., knew who Jeff Withey was prior to the 2011-12 season. That changed. In 2012-13, he'll be at the center of talks concerning All-Americans and the best defensive players in the country.
Withey wasn't a "superstar" in college basketball last season. Sure, he played a huge role in the Jayhawks' run to the national championship game. But the "superstar" of that team was Thomas Robinson. You could even argue that Tyshawn Taylor was more of a star than Withey.
Next year, though, Withey won't be sneaking up on anyone. His minutes per game are sure to increase (he averaged less than 25 per game last year), and his statistics with it. According to Ken Pomeroy, Withey had the best block rate in the country. Ahead of Anthony Davis.
It's obvious that Withey is the real deal on the defensive side of the ball. Here are three tweaks Withey can make to become a college basketball superstar next season.
Withey's meteoric rise last season was partly due to the fact that he didn't play hardly at all in his first two years as a Jayhawk. That was, in large part, due to his health.
This article by KUSports.com highlights exactly that—Withey struggled to stay healthy in his first two seasons, and his playing time suffered as a result. When he played, though, the potential was there. In his first two seasons, Withey played 207 minutes and blocked 25 shots.
His first healthy season was 2011-12, and his minutes still weren't outstandingly high. If Withey can improve his conditioning and keep his body in shape, he'll have more chances to contribute and more opportunities to impact the game.
Of course, injuries can happen to anyone, no matter how conditioned you are. Withey will have to have some good luck as well if he expects to play every game.
If Withey asserts himself—both on the glass and on offense—his numbers will improve. He may be comfortable taking a backseat to guys like Robinson, but as the senior leader for the 2012-13 Kansas Jayhawks, he should be ready to take on an increased load on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, Withey has the length to score at a high clip. He's shot over 53 percent in each year for Kansas. That, of course, is because he shoots predominately on the inside, but he can still call for the ball more often.
Defensively, he needs to attack the glass and fight for rebounds. He gave away rebounds to Robinson last season, and it helps that Robinson was such a beast on the boards. But next year, all signs point to Withey to be the leading rebounder for Kansas.
Assertiveness seems like such an easy fix. Withey needs to assert himself as a leader if he wants to become a superstar.
Expand Offensive Repertoire
If you know the name Jeff Withey, you know he's a great defender. Where Withey struggles is on the offensive side of the ball. His hook shot is really the only consistent weapon he has on offense, aside from put-back dunks.
In 2012-13, Withey may be called to do more offensively. Robinson and Taylor stepped up last season for Bill Self's squad, and with an arsenal of younger players slated to play next season, Withey will be an experienced option on offense.
Withey made his mark as a foul shooter last season, converting at a 79.5 percent rate. His value at the line will still be there next season, and he'll continue to grab offensive rebounds because of his great motor.
If Withey can add moves to his low-post game, and maybe even step out and shoot some jumpers, he'll be well on his way to being one of the best centers in college basketball.
He's already one of the top centers in college basketball. These three improvements will help his star continue to rise.
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