Playing for Kansas, Jeff Withey averaged 3.9 blocked shots per game and made a reputation for himself as one of the best rim protectors in college basketball.
The Utah Jazz already knew that about him. But that’s not why they brought the 7-footer in for a workout on Wednesday morning.
What the front office wanted to see was how he responded offensively. They wanted to see how deep the range was on his jump shot and how he played facing the basket. The defensive abilities would always be there.
"In that way, today was a unique experience," Withey said. "We did a lot of three-on-three stuff, a lot of shooting. It was different. Of course there’s the altitude factor and people want to see how you deal with that. So there were a lot of different layers to this workout."
Withey is intriguing. He’s a little different than some of the guys the Jazz are looking at for their second first-round pick — 21st overall — which is Withey’s projected range. He’s already 23, one of the oldest and most mature guys in the draft.
Most deem him capable of coming in right away and contributing on the defensive end.
He’s a true center, which would allow the Jazz to play Derrick Favors at his natural power forward spot.
And it’s not like Utah hasn’t had previous success with 7-footers out of Kansas: Greg Ostertag had a long career playing alongside Karl Malone 15 years ago.
"He was impressive," Jazz head scout Walt Perrin said. "He shot the ball a lot better than we anticipated. He showed us a side of his game that we didn’t see while he was in college. We didn’t want him to do much back to the basket stuff. We wanted to see him expand his game."
Tuesday marked Withey’s 12th pre-draft workout, typical for a guy like him with fluctuating projected draft value. With the Jazz he worked out with three other guards: Brandon Paul from Illinois, Ray McCallum Jr. from Detroit and John Allen out of Western Washington. Big men Jackie Carmichael and Christian Watford rounded out the group.
Perrin said it wasn’t intentional, but Withey found himself matched up with other bigs who shoot the ball from the perimeter. Along with the guards, Withey found himself in a workout where playing facing the basket was the norm, not the exception.
There was this 7-foot center from Kansas, a big white guy who can definitely block shots and rebound but has somewhat suspect offensive skills, who was working out for the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.
No, thankfully, it was not Greg Ostertag.
On this occasion, it was Jeff Withey, who averaged 13.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocked shots per game during his senior season for the Jayhawks in 2012-13.
Withey, a consensus second-team All-American, was one of six players who worked out for the Jazz at Zions Bank Basketball Center on Wednesday morning in hopes of hearing their names called during next week's NBA draft.
The others included a pair of 6-9 forwards, Jackie Carmichael and Christian Watford, along with 6-2 guard Ray McCallum Jr., 6-4 guard Brandon Paul and 6-1 guard John Allen.
But Withey was by far the biggest — name-wise and size-wise — of the latest basketball-playing bunch who tried to impress the Jazz brain trust as draft day draws near.
He won't ever be mistaken for Ostertag, the much-maligned 7-foot-2 center from Kansas who the Jazz drafted in 1995. But hey, if Withey could play a decade or more in the big boys league like Ostertag did — 'Tag spent 10 of his 11 NBA seasons in a Jazz uniform — he'd probably be glad to take it.
"I thought it went really well," the slender 7-foot, 235-pound Withey said of Wednesday's workout. "I shot the ball very well. We went up and down (the floor) a little bit; the air's pretty thin up here and I'm not used to that. But overall I felt pretty good about the workout. ... They wanted to see how well I shot the ball, and I didn't get to play too much defense."
Withey admitted that his schedule leading up to next Thursday's NBA draft has been hectic to say the least.
"It's been a crazy little ride, you know. I've been all over the place," he said. "This is my 12th workout in about 2 1/2 weeks or maybe three weeks, so I've been all over the place flying.
"It's been a unique experience. A lot of the people that I've talked to just say, 'Have fun with it,' and that's the best advice I've gotten. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm trying to look at it like that, but at the same time it is very stressful because it's a job interview everywhere you go and you want to be the best that you can be. And the draft is right around the corner, so it's a pretty crazy time.
"The anticipation of not knowing where you're going to be is pretty tough to deal with," Withey said. "People all over the place are just, you know, (asking) 'Where are you gonna go? Where are you gonna go?' I don't have a choice, so wherever I go I'll be happy and it's going to be an exciting experience."
Asked what he might bring to the Jazz should they call his name next Thursday evening, Withey said it was his shot-blocking ability that would likely afford him that opportunity.
"I think, right away, defense. That's something I pride myself on," he said. "I want to come in and block a lot of shots, lock down the best big man, and I think that's what my role can be my first year.
"And I just want to keep on growing as a player. I have offensive talents, too, that eventually I'll be able to master and be able to show that as well."
Walt Perrin, the Jazz's vice president of player personnel who has overseen the team's workouts of almost 80 potential draft prospects over the past several weeks, was impressed with Withey's performance in Wednesday's session — particularly the big fella's un-Ostertag-like ability to shoot the ball.
"He's more than a back-to-the-basket player. He can really shoot the ball from about 15 feet," Perrin said. "We know he can protect the basket; we know he rebounds. He played extremely hard. But because you don't see him stepping away from the basket at Kansas, he showed us that he can knock down the 15-foot jump shot.
"We had an opportunity to see Jeff shoot jump shots today. ... With the way we run our workouts, we want to take a look at different things so we're able to see if they can get away from the basket, (or) if a smaller guy can post up, (or) we can see how well they're going to work through the altitude, (or) are they going to finish strong.
"That's his main skill — he can protect the basket," Perrin said of Withey's shot-blocking ability. "He does a really good job from the weak side, and it would be intriguing having him and (promising young Jazz big man) Derrick (Favors). But you could say the same thing with some of the other big guys we've brought in, too, so we'll have to see."
The Jazz are expected to continue working out more players over the next few days.
But now, with the draft little more than a week away, Perrin says it's time for Utah's front office to get down to some serious selecting business. Utah has the 14th and 21st picks in the first round.
"We've got to get into the war room and start hashing out some things and figuring out some things, talking to some other people within the league and finding out where players might go and who might be there when we pick," he said. "We don't have many days left."
Lindsey made a big splash with his first draft. The best pg. Sounds like he can catch and shoot which should make them pretty dynamic with he and G and Burks able to play with and without the ball. Mo says he won't come off the bench so I guess he's gone. They'd want him to earn the spot. Thing is he might have to come off the bench if he goes elsewhere too. Gobert a good project for the D-League. If he's in the rotation than there's a problem. The other guy they can stash. I would have though a sf might have made more sense. Supposed to be going after Copeland which makes sense. NY won't be able to match.