Q&A: NBA hopeful, So Cal native Jeff Withey
MAY 24, 2013 5:15p ET
Withey, a center who graduated from San Diego’s Horizon High School in 2008, is currently training for June’s NBA draft and is projected as a mid- to late-first-round pick. May 15 marked the opening of the Chicago draft combine, the biggest and most organized pre-draft event, and Withey arrived in Chicago the night before, on Tuesday. From there, he spent four days in a whirlwind of skill drills, measurements and team interviews before leaving early, on Saturday night, to attend his graduation ceremony in Lawrence, Kan.
Now he’s back in Los Angeles, his new home base until a team selects him in the June 27 draft, and he spoke to FOX Sports West this week about what he’s been up to and what’s to come.
Joan Niesen: What was your schedule like at the combine? Did you participate in all the drills and activities?
Jeff Withey: It was a pretty busy schedule, full the entire time. I did everything, did the drills, met with teams. I was involved with everything. I didn’t take anything off.
JN: How many teams did you talk to, and what feedback did you get?
JW: I talked to 12 teams. It was a great experience, something that I tried to have a lot of fun with. I got really good feedback from a lot of the teams, felt really comfortable. Interviews went well. I’m definitely happy that I made the trip out there and did everything.
JN: Which teams did you feel like you had a good rapport with in the interviews?
JW: I met with Dallas; Dallas was a good interview. Atlanta was a good one, and Utah. They all went really smoothly for the most part. Those ones stood out to me...I got a good feel from every team. Every team said I presented myself well, and the whole thing, I felt like I got what I wanted out of it.
JN: How much of that level of comfort with all this comes from your age (23) and your having played at such a high-profile program?
JW: So much, because being mature, you’re going to know what to expect in these types of things. You know to present yourself… well. With Coach Self, we always do interviews with media, and NBA guys always come to our practices, so we can talk to them a little bit afterward. It definitely helps coming from a well-known program and being a senior, so you’ve been there and kind of know (what) to expect. I know how to handle myself.
JN: How much tougher would that have been to go through as a 19-year-old?
JW: The first night, I was so nervous with the interviews. I stumbled over my words a little bit. I can only imagine being 19 years old and how difficult that would have been. I’m definitely glad that I’m a little bit older.
JN: What will you be up to for the next month before the draft?
JW: It’s a pretty busy schedule. My home base is going to be L.A. I’m going to go travel and do workouts with teams, but I’m going to be in L.A. for most of the time training with the Wasserman Group (and trainer Rob McClanaghan). When teams call, I’ll probably just fly out there, get the workout in and fly back here.
They’re still getting the workouts figured out.
JN: In your workout sessions, has one of your goals been to add some size and strength? I know it’s a very different thing to play center in the NBA vs. in college.
JW: I’m definitely trying to gain some weight. You can never at my position be too muscular. I’m doing all the things I need to to get muscle, and healthy muscle, on top of that. I’m not satisfied with where I am right now. I’ve definitely got to get stronger. I’ve put on a couple of pounds (since school), but it fluctuates so much right now.
JN: You’re one of the top big men in this year’s draft, but in a league that’s becoming more and more driven by point guards, how do you sell yourself as the best choice for a certain team?
JW: I don’t have the best offensive game, but defensively, I feel like a guard-driven game helps me out (with) blocking shots and stuff. That’s what I do best. Going into the NBA, hopefully I’ll feel very comfortable doing what I did in college at the NBA level.
Also, I have a jump shot that I’ve been working on and trying to perfect. It’s my 15-foot jump shot. So pick-and-pop, I think that’s something that can be very strong for me and that I’m working on.
JN: Who were some of the tougher big men you went up against in college?
JW: Last year, 2012, the road to the Final Four, we played against Tyler Zeller and Anthony Davis. We played a lot of great talent. This year, there was James Michael McAdoo from North Carolina. He was very good, and Mitch McGary from North Carolina. You’re always going to get some good competition in the tournament. But we had some good competition, too, in the Big 12. There were big bodies, for sure, and bangers. I was able to play against those guys and also the smaller guys like McGary.
JN: Are there any NBA players who you model your game after?
JW: I like to say I have the defensive presence of Tyson Chandler. I’m trying to work my offensive game to be more like a guy like Pau Gasol. Obviously he’s a better offensive player than I am right now. Offensively, that’s something that I want to get to.
JN: So even though you’re not known for your offense, is that your biggest concern right now going into the draft?
JW: Yeah. You know, I’m just trying to get one or two moves that are like a go-to move in the post. I’m trying to show a lot of people that I’ve been working on my shooting ability. Defense is my bread and butter, so you don’t go away from that.
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