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Archive for Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Toughened up, Jeff Withey ‘fabulous’

Kansas center Jeff Withey gets on the floor for a loose ball with Kansas State forward Rodney McGruder during the second half on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at Bramlage Coliseum. At right is KU guard Elijah Johnson.

Kansas center Jeff Withey gets on the floor for a loose ball with Kansas State forward Rodney McGruder during the second half on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at Bramlage Coliseum. At right is KU guard Elijah Johnson.

February 14, 2012

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 59-53 victory over Kansas State on Feb. 13, 2012.

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KSU coach Frank Martin

Kansas State coach Frank Martin talks to reporters following the Wildcats' 59-53 loss to Kansas on Feb. 13, 2012.

KU vs. Kansas State

Box score

— You play basketball for Bill Self and you don’t compete hard, he’ll repay you with interest. And he’ll keep repaying you until you get tired of going through more than any physical opponent can put you through. And then you’ll start competing. You might even transform from a lamb in retreat to a charging bull.

That’s how Jeff Withey responded to the punitive Self, a football coach who dresses, smiles and sees the court like a basketball coach.

Withey went scoreless in the fall-from-ahead loss at Missouri. Since that game, he has averaged 20.3 points, 12 rebounds and 6.3 blocked shots, stringing together three dominant performances.

Thomas Robinson battled foul trouble Monday night in Bramlage Coliseum against a physical Kansas State team scrapping to relieve some NCAA Tournament bubble pressure. Players from both sides were getting smacked in the face, seeing stars and forming scars.

Withey kept plowing forward, doing what his team needed him to do. By night’s end, he fell one blocked shot short of a triple-double, totaling 18 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks in KU’s 59-53, blue-collar, black-and-blue body, victory against the Wildcats. That effort came hours after Withey was named Big 12 Player of the Week.

Withey opened a window into a recent punishment he endured in practice.

“Right before we went to Waco, I think I didn’t get a rebound,” Withey said. “He said, ‘Go touch every stair in the building.’ So I started running. Ever since then … I know coach and my teammates depend on me to play great. I picked it up. I don’t want to be running bleachers anymore. The Missouri game, I don’t want anything like that to ever happen again.”

Withey reached the conclusion that running into harm’s way in a game with teammates surrounding him beats running stairs by himself, getting humiliated in front of the guys whose approval he most desires.

“I’m serious, less than a week ago he’s touching every stair in the building because he would not try to go after the ball,” Self said. “Players are in his face going after him. All the sudden, you make a couple of baskets and get confidence. He’s been great.”

Self wasn’t the only coach marveling at Withey’s sudden emergence.

“As a coach, I root for guys to get better,” Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. “Obviously, when we’re playing against him, you’re not rooting for him. But as a fan of the game, as a guy who tries to teach kids the game, when you see a guy play with the confidence that young man is playing with, to make that improvement … That was a guy who couldn’t get in a game last year. Bill used to try to play him. He couldn’t. He would put him in the game, and he’d have to take him out.”

And now?

“Now he’s dominating the game,” Martin said. “He’s not just playing. He’s dominating Big 12 games. I don’t think there’s a big kid in the country that does what he does for his team right now.”

Aside from senior Jamar Samuels (20 points), K-State couldn’t shoot straight, but the Wildcats competed hard, defended ruggedly, brought everything it had. Withey didn’t retreat once.

“He played really good against Baylor, and he played really good against Okie State, but he was a lot better tonight,” Self said. “This was a big-boy game, and he had 18, 11 and nine on a night Thomas wasn’t Thomas. I thought he was just fabulous.”

The players tough enough to handle the coach’s high standards tend to get a lot better playing for Self and his staff, as evidenced by Robinson’s huge junior season and Tyshawn Taylor’s exceptional Big 12 play that Self referenced when asked about Withey. But as far as going from zero to 61 in three games spanning six days, Withey’s pedal-to-the-metal sprint to prominence blows the mind.

“For somebody who has kind of come out of left field, I don’t know if I can remember anybody be as dominant, to go from scoreless to now: How do you win without him?” Self said. “Such a bonus for us because Thomas trusts him, and those two should get better playing with each other as (Withey) continues to produce and take pressure off of (Robinson).”

Withey’s not done developing. Once he starts taking and making the open 15-footers — Self twice has selected him to shoot technical free throws, including in the second half Monday — he’ll become even tougher to guard on a team that already has Robinson and Taylor giving defenses fits.

This KU team is so much better than anybody could have guessed, and Withey and the guy who drove him to be tougher than anybody could have guessed deserve a great deal of the credit.

Comments

Robert Rauktis 2 years, 9 months ago

"This KU team is so much better than anybody could have guessed,"

Don't wake them up.

Kent Richardson 2 years, 9 months ago

How far can Withey take us? His hustle was awesome. T-Rob was out of focus and behind the game. A week or two ago we might have lost this game.

martyks 2 years, 9 months ago

Oh, no, don't let them ever go back to sleep! The big dogs are wide awake now.

Jayhawk_4_Life 2 years, 9 months ago

thats the thing...withey doesn't have to carry us most games. We have T Rob and Tyshawn, they're one of the best front court-back court duos in the country

justiceseeker2011 2 years, 9 months ago

hes good and all but... POTY? Please. But not to quibble as long as they are winning who cares.

rtwngr 2 years, 9 months ago

When you have a potential "player of the year" down low and another post player for him to work with, that adds up to a phenomenal front court.

Matthew Herbert 2 years, 9 months ago

this game was great to see, as long as you muted out Bob Knight's drunken, self-righteous blabber and ignored the fact that KU once again showed its achilles heel to all of D1 - Tyshawn Taylor with 3 minutes or less to go. Against K-State and Missouri, TT is now 0 for 4 on free throws that matter, nearly airballing one, and his assist to turnover ratio with under 3 minutes to play in tight games looks like that of an 8th grade intramural team's point guard. 37 minutes of this game however, were awesome (sounds familiar.....)

ignatius_j_reilly 2 years, 9 months ago

I have to disagree, and say that Bobby Knight is one of the two or three color broadcasters in any sport that I've ever liked.

dinglesmith 2 years, 9 months ago

Bob Knight - love him or hate him - knows more about basketball and how to teach it than anyone alive. He's not endearing, he's not happy or perky, he's a pain in the a$$ much of the time, but he understands basketball. I rooted against him every time I saw his team play, I thought he deserved to be fired at IU long before he was, but the man flat out understands the game. I really look forward to the games he works.

Matthew Herbert 2 years, 9 months ago

if you want to make your life 1,000,000 times better, search "Bob Knight Golf bloopers" on youtube. During his out of work prime, he tried to make some instructional golf videos- the only problem? He apparently sucks at golf. The videos are an awesome collection of profanity and golf club tossing.

ssteve1 2 years, 9 months ago

I also disagree (repectfully). BK just cracks me up. "KU is the best team in the big twelve, uh, and Missouri". You are right about TT. Lately seems to choke in crunch time, but, with two seconds left on the shot clock I still want the ball in TT's hands.

Beth Ennis 2 years, 9 months ago

that's kind of funny actually. He did correct himself on that, after he said they were the best team in the conference, he quickly said "unless Missouri is". My husband and I both cracked up. So he screwed up. It happens. I do learn from listening to him although, last night, I couldn't tell the difference between a block and a charge as they all looked the same and they were calling them different. It was very frustrating. Bottom line: Jeff did great! Congrats on a great game and becoming a real leader Jeff! Keep up the good work!

martyks 2 years, 9 months ago

You should listen to Knight. You might learn something about basketball. Did you notice that the ref asked him if he should have called over and back? Now, when is the last time a ref asked a commentator for his opinion? In the last few minutes of a game, TT is my democracy guard. He's sometimes very bad, but all the others are so much worse.

justiceseeker2011 2 years, 9 months ago

OK bench him. How about that then you dont have anything to cry about.

Armen Kurdian 2 years, 9 months ago

I don't dislike BK, but he's not among my top choices for color commentator. As for play-by-play, always liked Gus Johnson.

jaywalker 2 years, 9 months ago

"This KU team is so much better than anybody could have guessed,"

I know I didn't guess this, but I did say it would be interesting to see how Coach Self and his staff would mold the squad. After this transformation, I'm of the opinion that we have the best coach in the game. I knew he was good, but this team is incredible and the play of our Big Three is phenomenal, not to mention the overall defense w/ the other two of the starting five being legitimate shut-down defenders. All testament to the talents of the men in the suits.

hbjayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Excellent points jaywalker, coach self is amazing! Jeff is incredible.

Jim Williamson 2 years, 9 months ago

If anyone had stood up last October and said that Jeff Withey would narrowly miss a triple double in Manhappiness just hours after being named Big 12 Player of the Week, I'd have said they were either drunk or nuts.

Nice work, Big Man, and kudos and huzzahs to D Manning and the coaching staff!

Jerry Collins 2 years, 9 months ago

What a great job by TRob, realizing Jeff's emergence and not having to be the star at every turn. It's going to pay off from here on out as defenses plan to stop Withey, TRob will be greater than ever. As for Jeff, I'll bet his every waking moment is looking for another chance at MU. You can say 'one game at a time' and don't look ahead but I bet Jeff has something planned when the Tigers come to our house. Kick their AZZ Jeff.

Calvin Mabry 2 years, 9 months ago

Bill Self, in my opinion, is the best coach in America. This year's team should rank up there with one of his finest coaching jobs ever. The great thing about KU is that if Bill Self is the best Head Coach then Danny Manning has to be the best Assistant Coach. The improvements seen in the kids they teach is amazing. Not only do they turn out great athletes but they turn out great young men.

martyks 2 years, 9 months ago

I've heard Coach Self kind of bristle when people give all the credit for the bigs' development to himself and to Danny. He has said, "We have quite a few good assistants and they all work with our bigs and do a good job." So, yes, hat's off to Danny, for sure, but don't forget the others!

It's a tremendous staff, from the top to the bottom. Hudy, btw, is incredible. Her name should be mentioned more than it is. The entire organization is top flight. Bill's negotiations on his last contract reflect his appreciation and recognition of this group. He held out for a while to make sure everyone was rewarded in hopes of keeping the group together and it continues to pay huge dividends.

Gregory Newman 2 years, 9 months ago

Now what’s left is to get EJ and Releford to bend those knees and quit being afraid (BS said soft) to dribble drive and get to a point to shoot the 7-14 mid-range jumper. Both are just as fast as TT they just don't punch the gas.

Plus they don't have to force drives all the way to the bucket. They bust those mid-range jumpers then the heat is off T-Rob and Withey because the double teams will have to come off then it will be the greatest dunk show of all-time at any level.

Kentucky doesn’t want any part of that I’m not impressed with them. I'm Telling you EJ and Rel is the key then that sparks Teahan to get a taste. Then if Wesley and Young could move their feet and quit hacking on defense their offense will pick up. I always liked this team we just lost too many folks that wasn’t ready to leave.

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