Arizona freshman big man will transfer to KU

Just hours after the Kansas Jayhawks somberly boarded a homeward bound plane in Tucson, Ariz., early Wednesday morning, KU coach Bill Self got some news that would brighten his holiday.

Self received word from KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend that freshman big man Jeff Withey was ready to make his decision to transfer from Arizona to Kansas public. So at least the Jayhawks, coming off an 84-67 beating by the Wildcats, wouldn’t go home totally empty-handed.

Withey, the No. 36 overall player in the Class of 2008 by, visited Kansas as a recruit but chose to play for Arizona and legendary coach Lute Olson instead. But when Olson suddenly retired in late October, Withey had a change of heart. Withey notified Self of his decision to come to KU on Sunday but didn’t want to announce anything until after the KU-Arizona game had been played.

“I talked to my family, and we all sat down and looked at all the options,” said Withey, a San Diego native. “At the end of the day, we realized that Kansas is the best fit for me. I’ve been watching them on TV, and I just feel like I can come in and help them out next year. I can go into practice and play against Cole (Aldrich) and the (Morris) twins and help them out, and they’ll help me out. It’s a really good situation for me.”

Withey will enroll in classes and start practicing in January. He won’t be eligible to play in a game until after the fall semester next year. KU had a scholarship available, so the Jayhawks don’t have to make room for his arrival.

Withey, who measures 7 feet tall and 225 pounds, said he hopes to spend the next year building muscle in the weight room. He sees strength as the only knock against him right now.

“I can play center and power forward,” Withey said. “I like posting up. I also like facing up and taking the jump-shot. I really like playing defense. That’s one of my strongest attributes.”