Heading into the 2011-12 season Kansas forward Thomas Robinson was seen as a talented player, albeit one whose excellence had yet to be seen thanks to two season behind the Morris twins.
All the Washington, D.C. native did in his one season as the Jayhawks’ primary scoring option was lead Kansas to the national title game with averages of 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game.
The question for Kansas heading into 2012-13: can senior center Jeff Withey make a similar jump with Robinson and point guard Tyshawn Taylor both in the NBA?
In his first season of extensive playing time Withey proved to be a major asset for Bill Self on the defensive end, averaging 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game.
Offensively he was a credible threat as well, averaging 9.0 points in nearly 25 minutes per game.
But that was as a player whose possession percentage (18.0% per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers) fell in line with a guy who wouldn’t be the top line on an opposing team’s scouting report in that regard.
That all changed the moment Robinson entered the draft, and it’s something that Withey has been preparing for this off-season.
“Last year I learned a lot; it was kind of my first time playing,” said Withey at the LeBron James Skills Academy last weekend.
“Making it to the finals I picked up a lot of knowledge from that so next year I’m ready for the challenge.”
Withey shot 53.6% from the field last season, and his offensive rating (117.2) ranked tenth in the Big 12.
The San Diego native took advantage of the opportunities he received, and the task now is to continue to do so with his number being called more often.
“I feel like defensively I can hold my own,” said Withey. “But scoring, getting easy buckets and getting to the foul line is really important, especially since that’s going to be my new role next season.”
The Jayhawks, who have won eight straight Big 12 regular season titles, also return Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford and the addition of Ben McLemore should also help matters.
But if Kansas is to approach the heights reached in 2011-12 it will likely be Jeff Withey’s progression that determines whether or not they do.