Why Kansas' Jeff Withey and Ben McLemore Are the Best Inside-out Combo in NCAA

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IJanuary 8, 2013

When the topic of the greatest Inside-Out combinations of all-time comes up, I think of duos like Kareem and Magic, Malone and Stockton or Shaq and Kobe.

These pairs of great players blended their divergent skill-sets so well that, at times, they were almost unstoppable.

If you are looking for this year’s best NCAA Inside-Out combo, you don’t need to look any further than Lawrence, KS.

The Kansas Jayhawks’ Jeff Withey and Ben McLemore form the best mixture of bang-and-bounce, defend-and-drive, block-and-bomb.

Building from the Inside

Kansas’ success in recent years has been created by first establishing a strong, defensive presence. Currently, the Jayhawks are ranked No. 2 nationally in both FG Percentage-Defense (34.7 percent) and Blocked Shots ( BPG).  

Jeff Withey is the foundation of KU’s 2012-13 defensive barricade. Even though he is not a great leaper, he uses his length, reach and exceptional anticipation to block an incredible amount of shots. Earlier this season, Withey pulled off the rare triple-double against San Jose State that included 16 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocked shots. Yesterday (Jan. 6), against Temple, he blocked 9 shots.

Withey is currently No. 1 in the nation in blocked shots (5.23 bpg).


While Withey blocks more than his share of opponents’ field goal attempts, he also alters many additional shots per game.

What makes his shot-block stats even more impressive is that he, unlike many elite shot-blockers, rarely commits a foul. In the first 13 games of the 2012-13 season, Withey has blocked 68 shots but only been whistled for 16 (that’s right, I said 16) personal fouls. Do you understand how insane that is?

That means he blocks 4.25 shots per foul. Only one player in ESPN’s Top 100 D-1 shot blockers has a BLK/PF ratio over 2 (Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski: 2.46).

Many shot-blockers flamboyantly swat shots off the court and into the stands, only for their opponents to get the ball back to restart their possession. One added benefit from how Withey blocks shots is that the Jayhawks usually get the ball.

C.J. Moore of CBSSports.com points this out:

Withey has either tracked down his own block or blocked a shot to a teammate on 26 of his 37 swats (70.2 percent). The block-pass is nothing new for the big man, who grew up playing volleyball. Last season, KU got back 65 percent of Withey's blocks. They got back eight of 12 on Monday night, which actually dropped his block-pass rate. He'd better get to work on that.

More than being just a one-trick pony, Withey’s post defense is first-rate, his rebounding is solid (8.2 rpg) and he is KU’s second-leading scorer (13.4 ppg).

Bottom line: Jeff Withey has the Jayhawks’ interior locked down.


Boosting with the Outside

If Withey is KU’s Force, then Ben McLemore is their Flash.

McLemore, the Jayhawks’ redshirt freshman SG, is making an immediate impact on this year’s Kansas squad.

He is the team’s leading scorer (15.8 ppg) and is shooting incredibly well from all three shooting sectors:

  • FG (48.3 percent)
  • FT (87.8 percent)
  • 3P (40.0 percent)

To put McLemore’s shooting accuracy in perspective, only five players in NBA History have shot 50 percent from the field, 90 percent from the line and 40 percent from beyond the arc for an entire season. They are

  • Larry Bird (1986-87; 1987-88)
  • Mark Price (1988-89)
  • Reggie Miller (1993-94)
  • Steve Nash ( 2005-06; 2007-08; 2008-09; 2009-10)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (2006-07)

McLemore has scored in double-figures in all but two of his collegiate games.

One of the games where he fell short of double-digit scoring was his first collegiate game, when he scored nine points, grabbed 12 boards, handed out five assists and blocked three shots. The other was in a recent rout where Bill Self only played McLemore 20 minutes, and he still dropped in nine points.

While McLemore’s career high is 25 points against Chattanooga, he used a stellar 22-points, 6 rebounds performance on the road against Ohio State as his arrival notice to the rest of college basketball.

The day after Christmas, NBADraft.net’s Greg Sandler raised the question, “Could Kansas’ Ben McLemore Go No. 1?” If you’ve been following this season, you knew that this was going to come up.

Sandler goes on to say:

When one takes into consideration that an undersized SG like (6'4") Bradley Beal went No. 3 in last year’s draft, the sky is seemingly the limit for McLemore, who is taller, more athletic and arguably a better shooter than Beal (a former teammate from St. Louis). A Kansas trainer first compared him to a young Ray Allen, and that appears to be a very accurate comparison. Like Allen, McLemore is silky smooth in his ability to spot up and pull up off the dribble.

If McLemore can continue his rate of improvement and learn how to further impose his will on the game, by the time draft day rolls around, anything is possible. In a draft with no clear cut No. 1 pick, a shooting guard such as McLemore has a legitimate chance to be the top overall pick, something we have not seen in 40 years.

Having a player of either Withey or McLemore’s caliber on your team is good news. You could build around them.

But, when you have an Inside-Out combo like these two, plus three other senior starters (Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson and Kevin Young), you have the potential for a very dynamic team that can win the Big 12 regular season championship (for the ninth time in a row) and make a serious run in the NCAA tournament.  


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