The first in our new series by University of Louisville Basketball Senior Keith Oddo. Hope you enjoy Monday’s With The Milkshake Man…
Freak of Nature
The future is bright for the University of Louisville men’s basketball program. While Cardinal fans caught a glimpse into the next chapter of Louisville Basketball with the talented freshmen duo of David Johnson and Sam Williamson, they did not get to see the team’s diamond in the rough. At a legitimate 6-foot-9 and still growing, Jae’Lyn Withers is a versatile forward who possesses a guard-like skillset. Although Jae redshirted this past season and had to patiently observe from the sideline, it was the best decision for his overall development.
Over the last year, Jae not only improved his skills on the court, specifically his ball handling and developing a more consistent jump shot, but he was able to add the strength that he needed to be successful at this level. That is all in thanks to the best strength coach in all of college basketball, Coach Andy Kettler. Unfortunately for me, as the 5th year grad transfer senior, I was responsible for being Jae’s lifting partner every single day. We would usually lift five times a week, early in the morning, before class or before the coach-led on court workouts.
In all honesty, strength training under Coach Kettler entailed some of the hardest workouts I have ever endured. Part of the problem was that Jae’Lyn and I were both chronically under weight. Since training partners are held equally responsible and jointly accountable, Jae and I got a lot of special attention from Coach Kettler as one or the other of us often did not make weight. Every morning, Coach Kettler would make the two of us step on a scale and if we weighed 0.1 pounds lighter than we did from the previous weigh in, then we could expect that there’d be a price to pay. Now, I won’t get too deep into Coach Kettler’s motivation strategies, but suffice it to say that we were encouraged to make weight. As a result, every day I not only saw Jae’s weight increase, but I could see that he was lifting more weight and becoming noticeably stronger.
By the time the conference season got underway, it was clear that Jae’s strength and conditioning were translating over to the basketball court. When Jae first got to college, the more physical wings like Jordan and Dwayne were pushing him around. However, after a few months of lifting with Coach Kettler, Jae was getting to his spots, finishing at the rim through contact, and improving drastically on defense.
In addition, while I know that it was hard on Jae to sit out for the entire season, Jae used the year wisely as he became a student of the game. While he may not originally have been ready to contribute at the ACC level, Jae’s redshirt year was vital to his development. He got to see what works and what doesn’t, what makes guys like Jordan so successful, and how hard Dwayne plays on both ends of the court. He got to learn, get stronger, and, most importantly, develop at his own pace.
Out of every player on the team, Jae’Lyn probably had the most challenging season of all. He was constantly doing extra workouts with our coaching staff, always lifting with Coach Kettler, and working hard in the classroom – all while not getting to play a second in a real game. While it was certainly not easy, Jae clearly kept his eyes focused on the future.
So, Cardinal fans, here’s what you should expect next year with Jae. Obviously, as with any young player, there will be some learning curves with lots of highs and lows, so have patience. However, if Jae can learn from his mistakes and continue to improve his basketball IQ, then there will be no stopping him. In Jae, you’ve got a 6-foot-9 wing who can kiss the rim, guard 1-5, and knock down three-pointers consistently and impressively. Jae’s natural abilities and the skills he acquired during his redshirt year are a lethal combination. Again, Card Nation must be patient, and take the good with the bad early on, but long term, Jae’Lyn Withers will be a name to remember for a long time in the city of Louisville, Kentucky.
Keith Oddo #1
“The Milkshake Man”