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.