One thing that Gonzaga has been able to capitalize on during its impressive growth is luring big-time transfers who were unhappy in their original situations. Transfers like Dan Dickau, Erroll Knight, and Micah Downs have been instrumental pieces to Gonzaga's success as a program. Recently, a new transfer prospect has emerged on the Zags' radar. Jeff Withey, a four-star prospect out of high school spent his first semester at the University of Arizona before deciding to transfer because of the coaching changes at the university.
He never stepped on the court for the Wildcats so many fans do not know what Withey can bring to a program. TKR was lucky enough to get an interview with Trent Suzuki, who acted as Withey's recruiting coordinator as well as his personal trainer. He has trained many world-class athletes and has had a first hand look at Jeff's progression throughout his high school career. Suzuki was also instrumental in the recruitment of a current Arizona star which led to Jeff trusting in him to handle his recruiting as well.
"I've been training Jeff since his freshman year in high school. I worked with Chase Budinger so he heard about me through him" Suzuki told TKR, "I ran Chase's recruitment as well and since that worked so well, Jeff decided to let me run his recruitment. I ran it very fair and impartial and gave all the coaches equal ground."
Suzuki still maintains a good relationship with Withey and offered some insights into what drove Jeff to transfer from Arizona.
"The situation (at Arizona) became unfortunate because he wanted to have stability in the program. You just never know who is going to be the coach there so he just wanted to make sure he had all of his eligibility with a coach who is stable" Suzuki continued, "Everything happens for a reason and Jeff and his parents, who are a very Christian family, believe that . He just wanted to put his future in his own hands and that is something his family thought about. They prayed about it and this was what it came to."
During his high school days, Gonzaga was not a school that was actively pursuing Withey. However, since his decision to transfer, various sources have reported that Gonzaga is a major player and Suzuki notes this as well.
"He mentioned them. I haven't really spoken at length about Gonzaga with him since he has been sick recently but we have been texting back and forth about stuff. But if he mentioned them, he is definitely thinking about them" Suzuki told us.
The two other major players that have been reported are Texas and Kansas, and this is nothing new for Jeff Withey as they were there when he chose Arizona during his high school recruitment.
"Texas and Kansas were some of the final schools for him," Suzuki said, "They were right there. He already has a good relationship with Coach Self and Coach Barnes."
The nice thing about talking to Trent Suzuki for us was that he has had a front-row seat for Withey's development. We asked him to describe him as a player for us.
"Jeff is a very athletic guy, very branchy. He has tremendous shot blocking ability and has great defensive instincts already. He can shoot the three ball and has pretty good back to the basket skills. He obviously hasn't played at the college level but the Arizona coaches were very happy with his progress while he was there."
From all reports, Withey has been described much like Suzuki said and his weaknesses all appear to be very manageable and something that the Gonzaga coaching staff is used to dealing with.
"Jeff's got to get stronger. I know that better than anyone being his strength coach. When I started with him, he was 6'10'', 160 pounds." Suzuki said. "He is around 220 now so he's still learning how to play stronger and play in a stance. When you are that tall in high school, you really have no need to play that big because you can just use your athleticism."
Suzuki had a great deal of praise for Withey and claimed that the only thing that can really hold him back from being in the NBA early is his strength and the ability to play strong in the post. His praise even stretched beyond the basketball court.
"He is a very humble kid and quiet by nature. He loves hanging out with his friends and playing video games; he's really just your regular Southern California kid. He loves being outside and going to the beach and he comes from a great family and is very grounded with his principles."
As we mentioned earlier, Suzuki is one of the most well-known and respected trainers in the country. We were lucky enough to get his take on the Gonzaga program.
"I worked with Nike during some of their camps and got to work a little bit with Jeremy Pargo, you've got a good one there. I do follow your program and am a big fan of what Mark Few has done," Suzuki said "I have also become good friends with Coach (Bill) Grier since he has come down here and am a big believer in that kind of basketball."
"Gonzaga is well-known down here, they are always at the top of their conference and I'm a big fan of how they play. I'm always very excited when Gonzaga is interested in one of my guys."