Reasons To Be Excited About Training Camp: No. 17 The rookie, Jeff Withey
No. 17: The rookie, Jeff Withey
Entering his first NBA season, 7-foot center Jeff Withey would love to repeat what he accomplished over four seasons at the University of Kansas, when he blossomed from a minimally used player into a true force in the paint. After playing sparingly for the Jayhawks as a freshman (just 3.0 minutes per game) and sophomore (6.2), the San Diego native emerged as a starter in his final two seasons. As a junior, Withey helped Kansas reach the 2012 NCAA championship game against Kentucky in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (behind Most Outstanding Player Anthony Davis, the Wildcats prevailed 67-59).
Although he was viewed by many NBA draft experts as a project on offense, the 39th overall pick was an elite shot-blocker for Kansas. Withey finished third in the country last season at 3.79 rejections per game, a list that was topped by Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, who was officially drafted by the Pelicans before being traded to the 76ers.
On one of the NBA’s youngest rosters, Withey is incongruously a rare rookie (fellow Pelicans ’13 draft acquisition Pierre Jackson is spending 2013-14 playing in France). The 222-pounder needs to add muscle and fine-tune some aspects of his game, but New Orleans’ coaching staff has proven adept at helping players improve (see Al-Farouq Aminu, Jason Smith, Robin Lopez, Greivis Vasquez, among others). Regardless of how much Withey contributes to the Pelicans in 2013-14, his biggest objective could be relatively straightforward: to become a better NBA player in April 2014 than he is today.