Last season everyone made tons of noise about Anthony Davis, having a Freshman season, especially on defensive dominance terms, few have managed before. This year, Jeff Withey, the senior center for the Kansas Jayhawks, is having an arguably better year.
No one is saying Withey is better than Davis, but the resemblance between the productions so far, through the first 13 games of the season, do raise an eyebrow or two. Last season, Davis was averaging 4.5 blocks and only 2.2 personal fouls per game. He ended up with 4.7 rejections per game. This season, Withey, leading Kansas to a 12-1 start (#6 in the nation), is averaging 5.2 blocks per game with only 1.2 fouls.
Withey is probably not the player Anothony Davis is, although Davis is having a harder time in the pros than some expected from the teenager who decided that one year of winning everything possible in College Basketball was enough for him. He’s averaging 13.7 points with 8.9 rebounds, but it’s going to take him some time before he becomes the defensive presence many believe he should become.
But maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise that Withey, also averaging 13.4 points and 8.2 rebounds this season, is having such a special defensive year. Remember the national title game last season? He helped hold Davis to only 1-10 from the field. He’s leading the nation with 19.7% blocking rate, but he led the nation, finishing ahead of Anthony Davis, last season as well.
While inside the paint Withey is as good as they come in College Basketball, there is one issue that might suggest why he’s never mentioned to be the same type of defensive juggernaut David was last season. Withey is simply too slow to guard fast players if you force him to with high pick n’ rolls, like Tom Izzo did in the game against Michigan State, their only loss of the season so far. While Withey is a very good defender against big men, there are ways to get around that problem when facing Kansas, if you have the right kind of tools.