Jeff Withey set a record for blocks in a single NCAA tournament with 31 total in the 2012 edition of the Big Dance. He’s returning for his senior year as a key leader for a Kansas team that lost lottery pick Thomas Robinson and talented veteran Tyshawn Taylor.
Withey talked about basketball, the national title game and next season in a Q&A with ESPN.com.
What kind of player would you like to be for the Jayhawks next year?
Jeff Withey: I definitely want to be a scorer next year. I feel like I have to be with Thomas leaving. That’s going to be a big gap. I’m definitely working on my game. My post moves. My midrange game. Last year, I felt like people backed off me whenever I caught it at the high post. I definitely want to be able to hit that open jumper. It’s going to be tough with coach [Danny] Manning leaving, but we’ve got some good coaches. … I’m pretty much just worried about gaining weight right now, going to the gym to shoot a ton of shots. But I definitely want to become that guy who can hit that open jump shot and give it to me on the block and be able to make a move. I definitely want to play that role.
I’m going to be doing a lot of stuff later in the summer. I’m going to Amare Stoudemire camp. I’ll definitely learn some things there.
…How will this team change without Robinson and Taylor?
JW: We’ve got some really good young guys coming in. We’ve got Perry Ellis coming in. We’ve got this guy named Zach [Peters] that’s coming in. We’re excited about our team. We still have a strong core of seniors: me, Elijah [Johnson], Travis [Releford] and Kevin Young who came off the bench last year is going to be a senior also. We’ve got some good experience. Going that far in the tournament, I feel like you learn so much about basketball and just, we’ll be able to kind of coach the young guys and help Coach [Bill] Self in getting them right and what to expect. I feel like, hopefully, we’re going to be right back in it next year. I’m excited.
Withey established an NCAA tournament record with 31 blocks, and Davis -- who tied for No. 2 with 29 blocks in the tourney -- earned Most Outstanding Player honors even though he hit just one shot in 10 attempts against KU. But he also finished with 16 rebounds, three steals and six blocks on that final night.
It was a throwback moment as the national stage belonged to big men who specialized in rim protection. They're difficult to identify and nurture in the era of Post Player 2.0, a 21st-century athlete that tends to pursue finesse and versatility over a commitment to the paint. But the national title game emphasized the value of big men who block shots.
Any player can do it. But the elite post guardians mold the flow of a game, and proved it in the Big Easy.
"By the time we were in the Final Four, I felt like I had a ton of confidence," Withey said. "I felt like I played with a different swagger."
…Withey recognized his shot-blocking ability as a beach volleyball player in San Diego. At one point in his youth athletic career, he played more volleyball than basketball. The sport helped him develop the proper timing to block shots on the hardwood.
After transferring from Arizona to Kansas, Withey's daily battles with Cole Aldrich and the Morris twins (Markieff and Marcus) made him tougher. Today, he's the nation's top shot-blocker -- having sported the highest block percentage in the nation last season, per Pomeroy.
Like the other block artists throughout the country, he's still perfecting the craft.
But he's always had the gift.
"I think it's a quality or a characteristic that you have in your athletic makeup," said new Tulsa coach Danny Manning, once a prolific shot-blocker himself who taught Withey as an assistant at KU. "To me, a lot of times, it's just a matter of learning how to harness it."
Incoming Kansas University basketball forward Perry Ellis served as one of four valedictorians at Wichita Heights High School’s graduation ceremony on Sunday.
Ellis, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound McDonald’s All-American, completed his prep career with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average. He served as secretary of his school’s National Honor Society chapter and volunteered for the Wichita Children’s Home with the Real Men, Real Heroes’ Teen Hero program. He also was part of multiple youth literacy-outreach initiatives and worked as a motivational speaker to youth athletes.
The four-time Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year last season averaged 25.8 points and 9.4 rebounds per game for the four-time state champs. He shot 67.0 percent from the field, 43.4 percent from three-point range and 78.3 percent from the free-throw line.
Rivals.com’s No. 24-rated player in the Class of 2012 told Jayhawkslant.com he will report to KU for summer school sometime between June 1 and 4.
“A lot of good people around basketball have been through Kansas. I’m thankful that I’m going to be a part of it and I’m ready to get better,” said Ellis, who said he will wear his high school number of 34 at KU.
Rustin C. Dodd (@rustindodd)
5/23/12 4:44 PM
Still a ways away, of course, but Self said the newcomers could play more than the returners during the Euro Trip this summer. #kubball
The Texas Tech basketball program has a new radio voice.
Brian Hanni will begin his role as the new play-by-play radio broadcaster for the Red Raiders this upcoming season, Tech announced Wednesday. Hanni replaces Mark Finkner, who stepped down in April after 18 years with Tech athletics to spend more time with his wife and two children.
Hanni joins the Red Raider broadcast team from Kansas, where he spent the last 10 seasons broadcasting Jayhawks athletics. He was the play-by-play voice for the Kansas baseball team during his entire tenure and spent eight seasons broadcasting for the women’s basketball team.
Through his association with Kansas coach Bill Self, Hanni said he has always head a great respect for Tech coach Billy Gillispie and is eager to be at the call for a program he believes will be on the rise in the immediate future.
“It’s been a life dream to broadcast Division I basketball,” Hanni said, “and to do it in a great conference like the Big 12, at a program like Texas Tech, is something I’m very excited about.”
Big 12/College News
The irony is truly remarkable. A year ago, the Big 12 was a whiff from the end of days.
Now it merely holds the future of the ACC and the new college football postseason in its hands.
“The Big 12 has been and will be a key factor in college football,” interim commissioner Chuck Neinas says.
Only now do we see just how key.
TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte, speaking Wednesday morning on the Texas Tech campus, said the Big 12 has Florida State, Miami and Clemson trying to get into the conference, according to a Lubbock, Texas radio station.
Later in the day, Del Conte told the Fort Worth Star Telegram that he was referring to the “rumor mill”—not confirming interest from other schools.
I’m not buying it.
The president of the board of trustees at Florida State recently said his university should take a hard look at its athletic options, all but daring the Seminoles to evacuate the ACC ASAP. At the same time, conference commissioners for the ACC and Big East and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick all said the same thing during spring meetings over the last week: We’re monitoring the situation.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 and SEC spring meetings begin next week, with college football staring at two significant issues: the power conferences eating (another) one of their own, and the yet to be completed four-team playoff. Here’s how it could play out:
If Florida State and another ACC team leaves for the Big 12, it will start a chain reaction of proactive protection that will separate the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 from the rest of college football. It’s survival mode for everyone involved.
The SEC can’t sit and watch the Big 12 encroach its television markets without responding, and that response will be a run at Virginia Tech and the Holy Grail of the ACC, North Carolina.
One television industry source said Virginia Tech “wasn’t interested” in leaving the ACC last summer when the SEC was expanding, but that “the writing will be on the wall” if FSU and another ACC team leave for the Big 12.
Only one move needs to happen to set it all in motion: FSU to the Big 12. If that happens, the SEC—knowing the Big 12 will need (at least) a 12th team—will pursue Virginia Tech to strengthen its television brand potential. Once that happens and the ACC is mortally wounded, North Carolina—one of the nation’s strongest athletic programs—will be available.
Clemson's Board of Trustees will meet Thursday in Columbia to discuss the recent swirl of speculation regarding the latest wave of potential conference realignment.
Board chairman David Wilkins tells the Tigernet.com website that the meeting is designed to get all board members on the same page.
Wednesday, Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips told 7 On Your Side he's committed to keeping Clemson viable in major college football and is currently working to do the same for the ACC.
He reiterated that the school has not had contact with the Big 12, despite that suggestion in various media reports in recent days.
Let’s be clear: The ACC has work to do. But that’s not nearly the same as being doomed, which is how some have characterized the conference after the double hit of Florida State’s (apparently overstated) flirtation with the Big 12 and the announcement of the SEC/Big 12 New Year’s Day bowl. As a public service, we attempt to distinguish flaming hyperbole from colder reality.
…Swofford should go hard at UConn and Louisville, schools that graced the past two Final Fours and play competitive football. (Kansas would be a target if it hadn’t pledged to forfeit Big 12 TV money if it leaves.) Those two would stretch the ACC map and would make this the basketball league to end all basketball leagues. Marketing slogan: “You might not want to coach here, but you’ll darn sure watch our games!”
Kentucky coach John Calipari didn't want to continue UK's longstanding rivalry with Indiana as a home-and-home series. Indiana coach Tom Crean didn't want to play on a neutral floor. Turns out, fans of both teams, and fans of college basketball in general, aren't the only ones incensed with the turn of events.
The Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics -- a group of 59 faculty senate members from Football Bowl Subdivision schools, whose mission is to "provide a national faculty voice on intercollegiate sports issues" and which supports the traditional student-athlete model -- is none too pleased, either. This week, the COIA released a scathing statement on Calipari's justification of his new scheduling strategy, saying Kentucky's refusal to play on campus sites marks "the type of warning sign we would expect to see on the path toward a full professional model." An excerpt:
Consistent with COIA policy, the Coalition Steering Committee calls for strong opposition to such policy changes from the NCAA leadership, conference commissioners, and Division-I schools, and we urge NCAA member schools to refrain from signing contracts with Kentucky on such terms. [...]
Now Kentucky is taking its professional model to the next level. By demanding as a matter of policy that non-conference games be moved to neutral sites that emulate professional conditions it is breaking the connection between campus and school sports and insisting that contracted opponents do likewise. Programs designed with the balanced goals of the collegiate model cannot compete with this approach, and UK’s actions will place schools under enormous pressure to follow suit.
We call on all those who support the collegiate model of athletics to speak out against this further move to professionalize college sports, and -- most importantly -- to decline to participate in such a separation of competitions from campuses. Even a “non-traditional” sports program needs opponents to play.
John Calipari announced a handful of big-event games for upcoming seasons Wednesday including a multi-year series with Duke, a resumption of the North Carolina rivalry and a matchup in Cowboys Stadium against Baylor.
"When we schedule, I want to create experiences, not just games," Calipari wrote on his website. "The thing about Kentucky basketball is it's passed down from father to son. I want to schedule events that grandfathers and grandsons will be talking about 25 years from now. That's part of what Kentucky basketball is about; part of what has made this place so unique."
Baylor picked up a road game with Kentucky, adding again to the Bears' solid schedule. Bears coach Scott Drew said Baylor will also play at Gonzaga in a return game from two years ago in Dallas, and also will host Northwestern and BYU. The Bears are one of the marquee teams in the Charleston Classic with Murray State, Colorado, St. John’s and Dayton. Auburn, Boston College and the College of Charleston are also in the field. Baylor will get plenty of power-rating pop for this schedule, especially with the addition of Kentucky. No one should be surprised that the return game is in a neutral setting at Cowboys Stadium. Duke and North Carolina have done similar scheduling agreements many times.
Nearly two months after a Sports Illustrated story painted him in a negative light, former UCLA men’s basketball player Reeves Nelson has sued the magazine.
The suit, filed Wednesday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, names Sports Illustrated’s parent company, Time, Inc., and writer George Dohrmann as defendants. Nelson’s complaint alleges defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress after Dohrmann wrote an expose on the UCLA basketball program titled “Not the UCLA Way.”
Nelson is being represented by attorneys Keith Fink and Olaf Muller of the firm Fink & Steinberg. Fink is also a professor in the communication studies department at UCLA.
The suit claims damages in excess of $10 million. Reached late Wednesday, a spokesperson for Time declined comment, saying the company had yet to receive the suit.
The expose depicted Nelson as abusive, which 18 of his UCLA teammates dispute in sworn declarations attached to the suit.
In the declarations, current and former players deny some of Dohrmann’s anecdotes: that Nelson bullied Matt Carlino, which led to the guard transferring to BYU; that Nelson and former forward Mike Moser came to blows during a practice; and that Nelson tried to go after James Keefe’s already injured shoulder in practice.
Carlino, Moser and Keefe were not among the players who signed declarations for Nelson’s suit. However, a handful of players denied they were victims of Nelson’s alleged abuse, according to declarations.
The Big East announced its format for an expanded 18-team men's basketball tournament beginning in the 2013-14 season and featuring two play-in games with the lowest-seeded teams.
Those play-in games would take place on the Monday of tourney week at a site yet to be determined in the New York area. Madison Square Garden, which hosts the Big East tournament, is an option, but further evaluation must be done before any decisions are made on a host site.
2012-13 Early Season Events List
Heading out to Cali in 2 weekends! #pangoscamp
Olympic High basketball star Allerik Freeman will play his senior year at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., a suburb of Las Vegas.
Findlay Prep head coach Michael Peck confirmed that Freeman, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior, would be leaving Charlotte and heading west for his senior year of high school. Freeman initially tweeted “Findlay Prep bound” on his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon.
Freeman and Olympic coach Ty Baumgardner did not return calls to the Observer.
ESPN ranks Freeman the nation’s No. 13 overall recruit in the class of 2013 and the No. 5 shooting guard. ESPN has ranked Freeman as high as No. 9 nationally. He was a first team All Charlotte Observer and Associated Press all-state pick this season. He has narrowed his potential college choices to Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Villanova and UCLA.
Freeman averaged 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.3 steals at Olympic last season, helping the Trojans to a 28-2 record and a second straight appearance in the N.C. 4A Western regional tournament.
Karl Towns already has a Middlesex County championship as well as a New Jersey Non-Public A State championship in his freshman season at St. Joseph-Metuchen.
What could possibly top accolades such as those?
The only answer is a possible Olympic appearance.
The 6-foot-11 high school freshman was named Tuesday to the Dominican Republic Senior National Team roster by head coach John Calipari.
…With Towns on the roster, Calipari gains a one-up in his recruitment. The Kentucky coach will get to coach Towns at an early stage which will definitely play a roll in Towns’ recruitment.
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