Jae'Lyn Withers Making Significant Strides in the Weight Room
When Jae'Lyn Withers first arrived on the campus of the University of Louisville, men's basketball head coach Chris Mack knew there would be an acclimation period. Despite being listed at 6-foot-8, the power forward from Cleveland Heights (OH) weighed just 215 pounds.
In order to help him get accustomed to the college game, Mack opted to redshirt the freshman for the 2019-20 season and have him solely focus on adding strength and weight to his body.
"(Strength) Coach (Andy) Kettler was able to keep Jae'Lyn in the weight room way more than any other player on our team," Mack told reporters in a teleconference Thursday. "Those guys had to worry about being ready to play a game - being ready for the next practice and preparation for the next game. Jae'Lyn just had to worry about showing up to practice."
Fast forward one year, and Withers' physique has completely changed. Mack says that Withers has put on "20-25 pounds" since he first stepped on campus, not to mention the fact that he has previously stated that Withers has grown around an inch and a half during that time.
Couple that with the experience learned from going up against Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton, Malik Williams and Steven Enoch every day in practice, and Mack feels a lot more confident in Withers' abilities now than he did this time last year.
"He gained a whole lot learning our system, getting comfortable both as a student and as an athlete," Mack said. "But I think the major benefit Jae'Lyn got was his physique really changed during his freshman year."
Even after being quarantined in his hometown of Charlotte, NC for an extended period of time due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Withers was still able to keep the additional weight on him.
"We were a little nervous - him being in Charlotte for three months - that he was gonna show up back as Jae'Lyn the newly-graduate from high school, and he didn't. So that was a huge plus," Mack said.
With Withers set to see the floor this season for his first true college basketball action, Mack love the versatility and the athleticism he will bring on both ends of the floor.
"Jae'Lyn can play a lot of different positions. The versatility and the athlete that he is really puts us in a position where we can utilize him in different positions," he said. "I think he can guard a lot of positions, because as big as he is and as tall as he is, he really moves his feet well. He's a great athlete."
Mack says that Withers will "be in our front court more than he would in our backcourt", primarily taking reps at the four spots and occasionally sliding over into the five spot. While Mack believes that Withers will have the occasional 'welcome to college basketball' moment where he's not as sharp as he needs to be, he has no doubt that Withers will continue to improve.
"That how you get better. You screw up. You watch film. You figure out how to get better, and use those experiences to better yourself," Mack said. "We're looking forward to having Jae'Lyn on the roster to do that this year."
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