Ever since Tom Thibodeau took over as head coach of the Chicago Bulls, they have become known for their dominant defense. Jeff Withey, a 7-foot, 222 lb. center out of the University of Kansas, has done a similar task by becoming one of the best defensive players in the NCAA for the 2012-13 season.
The former Jayhawk averaged a near double-double of 13.7 points and 8.5 rebounds. To go along with that, he also averaged an outstanding 3.9 blocks (third in the NCAA) and collected 146 total blocks for the season (first in the NCAA). Withey also graduated from KU as the all-time leader in blocks. Clearly, he achieves an immense amount of success in the paint defensively, partially due to his volleyball background. In fact, his is so well-known for his blocking ability, KU created witheyblockparty.com and even developed a #witheyblockparty video to be played at Allen Fieldhouse during Kansas basketball games.
A lot of hype has rightfully been placed on Withey and his blocking ability. It is for this reason he would be a great addition for not just the Bulls, but for any team really. It would be insane to not want Withey’s blocking ability, but that is not the only reason he excels as a defensive center. With a 7’2″ wingspan, Withey’s length affects opponents, their shot selection, and therefore, can alter them. He stays very active on the defensive end, never giving up on the chance at gaining possession for his team. Plus, Withey was named the NABC Defensive Player of the Year, so his defense has certainly become a force to be reckoned with to opposing NCAA big men.
Because of that, Withey would fit in well with the Bulls, especially since they could use more size. But even as prosperous as he has been, Withey still needs to be a good offensive player as well, especially since the Bulls have been known to have their offensive struggles.
Unfortunately, Withey is not much of an offensive threat. He may shoot 58.2% from the field and 71.4% from the charity stripe, but because of his size, he sometimes struggles to post up. He does have a mid-range jump shot is in his repertoire, but he does not really utilize it.
On the bright side, improvement is not out of the question when it comes to Withey. Coming out of high school, Withey originally committed to play for Louisville, then later changed his mind, and went on to Arizona. After spending a semester there, he was allowed to transfer and ended up at Kansas. He had to sit out the 2008-09 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but saw minor playing time as a redshirt freshman the next year.
During his first season as a Jayhawk, Withey was one of three centers on the roster: him, Cole Aldrich, and Markieff Morris. Due to this, only fifteen games featured Withey on the hardwood, in which he averaged 1.3 points and 1.4 rebounds in 3.0 minutes of play. He received more playing time his sophomore year, but it was not a major change; Withey played in 26 games and averaged 2.3 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 6.2 minutes of play.
Withey finally saw quality playing time his junior season. His minutes increased dramatically to 24.8 minutes, and he posted 9.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks per game. What Withey proved is that he knows how to improve and make use of his playing time.
This gives hope for Withey’s continued improvement throughout the start of his NBA career. He may be 23 years old, making him older than most prospects, but that does not mean improvements cannot be made. And as for his size, many players come into the league knowing they will have to bulk up to survive. As long as he works on adding strength, he should be okay.
If the Bulls were to select Withey with the 20th pick, they may not necessarily get the offense they need, but being the recipient of one of the NCAA’s best defensive big men certainly has its perks. And it certainly would not hurt the Bulls to become an even larger defensive threat.