Kansas’ Jeff Withey is playing with no fear
by By Mick McCabeUSA TODAY Sports, USA TODAY
ARLINGTON, Texas — Michigan’s Mitch McGary has a secret admirer in the Sweet 16.
But he isn’t exactly a secret. Kansas’ 7-foot senior center Jeff Withey and he is a big fan of the 6-foot-10 freshman.
“Just how physical he plays, how hard he plays,” Withey said Thursday in previewing tonight’s Sweet 16 game against the Wolverines. “He loves to dive after loose balls. He loves to screen people … he enjoys hitting somebody.”
But don’t mistake Withey’s admiration for McGary as a sign of fear. Withey fears no one, especially McGary.
“I know he’s going to be a tough guy to play against,” Withey said. “He’s going to be physical. I’m not going to change my game plan. I’m not going to change the way I play. I’m going to try to match his effort and be fine.”
Withey’s game plan has been to change the direction of the ball when shot by an opponent. A year ago he set the single tournament record with 31 blocks. He is so good at that only one player in the history of the NCAA tournament — Tim Duncan — has more career blocks that Withey’s 44. Duncan had 50 with Wake Forest.
“Seeing him in practice every day and being around him it’s kind of expected for him to get the blocks,” said senior Kevin Young. “It’s more surprising when he doesn’t block a shot or they call a foul on him. He’s very talented and very athletic down there. He makes blocks people don’t expect him to make.”
Withey is also a big fan of U-M guard Trey Burke and he knows he will have company in the paint. He also knows the U-M guards might not have the ball long once they reach the paint.
“Getting to the paint and dishing out for threes is what they do,” he said. “They shoot the ball really well. Trey Burke is obviously a great point guard and he knows how to create for other and for himself. He knows how to get in the paint and get easy … [For more on Kansas' Jeff Withey is playing with no fear, click here.]