Jeff Withey receives invaluable lessons at voluntary workouts
September 26, 2013
Jeff Withey was an excellent student at the University of Kansas, graduating a semester early in December 2012 with a degree in American studies and a minor in education. This fall, the 7-footer’s knack for rapid learning has already come in handy, as he experiences a virtual “crash course” in NBA basketball.
Along with 14 of his New Orleans Pelicans teammates, Withey’s spent the bulk of September working out and scrimmaging inside the team’s new practice facility. The experience has been invaluable for the second-round draft pick.
“Kansas did prepare me for this, but obviously there are bigger and stronger guys in the NBA,” said Withey, who helped lead the Jayhawks to the 2012 NCAA title game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. “I’ve noticed how the guards here are a lot faster and smoother with the ball. They know how to make plays and are so good at this level. In college you can kind of get away with a lazy hedge (helping a picked teammate on defense), but here you can’t do that at all. You’ve got to be on guard all the time. It’s a different physical level.”
Speaking of physicality, one of Withey’s objectives this season is to add muscle and weight to his current 222-pound frame. In college, the 23-year-old used his athleticism and leaping ability – he’s a former volleyball player – to average 3.9 blocks as a senior. In the pros, those traits will still be assets, but he needs to bulk up in order to more effectively hold his ground in the paint.
“We’re trying to (develop) and get on a meal plan, so that way I can gain some weight,” Withey said. “I know during the season you’re going to be playing so much, you need to have that weight so your body doesn’t break down. I want to be in great shape. Even if I’m not as heavy as I want to be, that way I can outrun people, out quick them. I know I’m not going to be the strongest guy on the court during my rookie year, so I want to be able to beat guys down the floor.”
Off the court, the San Diego native moved to New Orleans in early September and found a place in the Warehouse District. He’s excited about the many excellent dining options nearby and has enjoyed his early adjustment to the city.
“It’s a nice area,” Withey said of his neighborhood. “I moved in about four weeks ago, so I already know my way around. I hear there are so many good restaurants downtown, so I wanted to be close to that. I wanted to be able to walk to wherever I want to go.
“Living downtown, obviously it gets pretty expensive going out to eat every night or every meal, so I’m not going to do that,” he continued, smiling. “But so far I like it a lot and I’m really getting to live the New Orleans lifestyle.”
Unless you count his stint at NBA Summer League in mid-July, Withey last played in an official basketball game March 29, his college finale for Kansas. He says the wait to officially begin his pro career has felt interminable at times. He can’t wait to open training camp on Oct. 1 and start playing preseason games a few days later.
“There are so many things to be excited about,” he said. “I’m ready to get out on the floor and play. I feel like it’s been such a long time since I was in a real game. I’m really excited for the first game, and to be in New Orleans playing in front of a crowd. It’s going to be a great year with the new name and the new colors. There is a lot to be excited for with this team.”
In the meantime, Withey is trying to learn as much as he can from some of his NBA veteran teammates, including fellow New Orleans centers Greg Stiemsma, 28, and Jason Smith, 27, who have a combined seven years in the league.
“I’m trying to pick up every little thing I can and trying to be a sponge and soak everything up,” Withey said. “It’s a different level here and different type of work ethic. Everything is more intense. I’m just getting my body used to banging against bigger guys and learning different things from the veterans. It’s been very helpful. Some of the things you can’t learn during summer league, you can learn them here. I’m learning a lot.”