Arizona gives Withey release to transfer

December, 9, 2008
Quick hitters for Tuesday:

• Arizona freshman Jeff Withey finally got his release to transfer Monday after it was initially denied by the school.

Withey told early Monday that he had stopped asking for the release but then he was "shocked" when the school gave it to him. He said the signed release ends a frustrating first semester for him.

Withey said he will likely concentrate on two of the schools that recruited him out of San Diego's Horizon High -- Texas and Kansas. Withey, who originally committed to Louisville but said he doesn't have interest in the Cardinals now, plans on enrolling for second semester at one of those schools so that he can be eligible midseason of 2009-10.

Withey said there were no stipulations in the release from Arizona but he didn't anticipate staying in the Pac-10.

Withey quit the team in late October after the resignation of Lute Olson and the naming of a new coaching staff led by interim coach Russ Pennell. Withey, a 6-foot-11 ESPNU top 100 player, was the Wildcats' top recruit this fall once Brandon Jennings went to Italy after failing to qualify and Emmanuel Negedu got out of his national letter of intent and went to Tennessee.

"[The fall semester] was definitely stressful,'' Withey said. "I was just watching the guys on the team play on TV. It was hard. It made my love for the game even stronger. Every time I go out, I'm going to give it my all.''

Withey said his last final exam is on Dec. 18 and then he'll field recruiting questions in the hope that he can be on campus at a new institution after the holidays.

"I knew this would be a gamble but I felt like I had to take control,'' Withey said. "I felt that it was the right thing to get off the team early and not betray the school by leaving [the team] midyear.''

Withey said the obvious coaching turmoil led to his decision.

"I just didn't feel like Arizona was my home anymore,'' Withey said. He added that the players on the team have still been good to him and he considers them his friends.

"It's too bad it didn't work out, but I have nothing but good things to say about the program and the team,'' Withey said. He added that he has been working out by himself at the student rec center to keep himself in shape.

• There will be plenty of time to rip both the coaches and media polls throughout the year. This week, the coach's poll deserves a knock.

Baylor's omission in this week's poll makes no sense. The Bears beat Arizona State, ranked No. 18, in the 76 Classic semifinals in Anaheim last week and won at Washington State on Saturday night -- the only road team to win in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series. Baylor's only loss was to Wake Forest, ranked No. 11, in the 76 Classic final.

Baylor did check in at No. 22 in the AP poll.

Baylor coach Scott Drew wasn't aware that the ESPN/USA Today poll is only done by the 31 coaches, not members of ESPN or USA Today, which only put their title names on the poll. Neither controls the voting.

"All I know is that we beat ASU, beat Providence, lost to Wake Forest and just won at Washington State, and everyone knows how tough that is,'' Drew said.

Rankings don't mean much in college basketball as compared to college football, at least unless you're at a program like Baylor. To the Bears, being ranked does help their credibility nationally.

"It does mean something to us,'' Drew said. "It means something to be ranked as one of the best teams in the country. Anytime you see your school name across the bottom of the ticker, it's a great accomplishment.''

Baylor has won by playing up-tempo in some games and slowly in others, such as in grinding out the win over the Cougars. Drew said the Bears are proving they can defend, as evident by allowing just 61.1 points per game.

Head-to-head matchups should mean something, too. Ohio State beat Notre Dame in Indianapolis yet is ranked eight spots behind the Irish.

Please tell me what Villanova has done so far this season to be ranked No. 12?

My rankings (in our Power Top 25) are hardly perfect. But when there is a clear omission in one of the polls, like Baylor this week, it's worth noting.

• Miami's victory over Kentucky this past Saturday came with a price -- as in price tag. Miami's visit to Kentucky was actually a one-way deal. The Hurricanes, according to coach Frank Haith, were paid $75,000.

"We won, and it was a big-time win,'' Haith said. "If we had lost, I might not be as pleased about the deal.''

Haith was kidding, sort of. He agreed to the deal when Kentucky needed a game. But he said he would love to start a home-and-home series with the Wildcats if they'd be interested.

One-way games happen every day in November and December, but a one-way, no-return game between an ACC and SEC team is rare. Miami shouldn't have to go on the road to play Kentucky without getting a return. But Haith took the gamble and it paid off. The Hurricanes will get a quality road win that will help them on their résumé in March. But Haith isn't about to make this a habit, so other SEC schools shouldn't think they can suddenly get Miami on the slate without going to Coral Gables, Fla., in return.

• A few coaches at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla., mentioned to me that they would like to see coaches wear golf shirts or nice, business casual shirts -- short- or long-sleeved -- with a presentable pair of slacks and shoes. The thinking is that coaches don't need to wear a suit and a tie, especially when they're in the heat of a game and can start to feel a bit light-headed (we've seen that occur quite often in years past) when they jump up quickly out of the huddle.

There is no rule that a coach has to wear a suit and tie. We've seen plenty of coaches go with the mock turtleneck and sport coat, the windbreaker (as Bob Huggins has done) or the sweater (as Bob Knight did during his time at Indiana and Texas Tech).

Reggie Minton, the associate director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said he's all for more of a casual look as long as it is presentable and the schools are satisfied with the move.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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