Monday, January 7, 2013
Jeff Withey is having a crazy season
By Eamonn Brennan
Last season, we spent a lot of time singing Anthony Davis' praises, and for good reason, and that is a huge, huge understatement. Davis won all the major national player of the year awards and led Kentucky to a national title in his first season. It was an incredible individual season.
Davis was great on the offensive end -- he never got enough credit for that -- but where he really shined was defensively, where his agility and length and athleticism made him an absolutely shot-blocking nightmare. Kentucky could defend opponents to the perimeter and never fear penetration, because Davis was a) fast enough to provide quick help and b) tall enough to block just about everything.
Anyway, Davis didn't just block shots: He blocked shots without fouling. It was his gift, or among them, one of many that made him special.
Through 13 games of the 2012-13 season, Kansas center Jeff Withey is making Davis look like an amateur.
Through 13 games last season, Anthony Davis had 58 blocks and 29 fouls. Through 13 games this season, Kansas center Jeff Withey has 68 blocks and only 16 fouls.
In other words, Withey is having an insane defensive season. His 19.7 block rate is tops in the country, and his 1.7 fouls per 40 minutes is shockingly low for someone who challenges and swats as many shots as Withey does. Last season, Davis finished with a 13.8 block percentage, and was called for 2.4 fouls per 40 minutes. I use those numbers comparatively not to make the argument that Withey is a better player (or even a better overall defender, because I'm not sure that he is), but instead to provide a frame of reference for exactly what Withey is doing. Because it's totally crazy.
Withey was already pretty good: He finished No. 1 in block rate last season, too, a few points ahead of Davis (who was No. 3). And he famously held Davis to just 1-of-10 from the field in the national title game. Seeing that, it was a guarantee Withey would come back for more in 2012-13. But however high those expectations were, Withey has already blown through them. The dude's a beast.