What do you call a basketball player with dreams of playing basketball collegiately and receiving only one scholarship from an NCAA Division-II school? An underdog. What do you call an NCAA Division-II basketball player with ambitions to be drafted by a professional NBA team? An underdog. Now, what do you call that same Division-II ballplayer who is trying to successfully make the final roster for an NBA team? Well, you should no longer call him an underdog – you should now view him as a man on a mission to make the impossible, possible. That said player would be Todd Withers, one of the Pistons Exhibit 10 contract players. He is primed to make a name for himself during this year’s training camp.
As of one of the two Exhibit 10 players on the Pistons roster (the other being former Alabama forward, Donta Hall), Withers is eligible to become a signed two-way contracted player for the Pistons. If he is signed by the Pistons to be a two-way player, he will suit up for the Pistons’ G-League affiliated team, the Grand Rapids Drive. Last year, Withers played for the Drive where he averaged 6.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. With a shooting split of 40/31/72 while playing in 48 games and starting in 36 of those games.
He excelled in the role that he played in – a starting 3-and-D type forward. When on offense he was tasked with getting open on screens and shooting three-point jumpers. When on defense, he was required to lock down the perimeter and play the passing lanes defensively. The same was asked of him during his four years at Queens University of Charlotte – a small Division-II school based out of North Carolina. Queens was the only school that offered Withers a scholarship coming out of high school, in his hometown of Greensboro, NC. At Queens University, he made the most of his scholarship by becoming a Division-II All American, leading his team to a Division-II Final Four Tournament appearance during his senior year
From a physical aspect, Withers almost fits the similar build of Scottie Pippen when he first entered the league, standing at 6’8”, and a little over 215lbs. But he isn’t at Pippen’s level talent-wise…at least not yet. Many view Withers as a player that is a long shot to make the final roster for the Pistons, and you wouldn’t be considered wrong if you believe that. But don’t count him out also, because you’ll be wrong if you did that too. The Pistons are log-jammed at the guard and wing positions but lack some players with size and athleticism at those spots. Withers is a slim but sizable forward. In the best description possible, he is all limbs and length – and that makes him an asset both on defense and offense. His length is what helps him contest shots on defense and helps him grab rebounds. While on offense, his length makes his shot almost unblockable and makes life a bit easier for him to grab offensive boards. He is a perfect fit for the role of a 3-and-D NBA forward.
If you got a chance to watch the Pistons in Summer League this past summer, you should be familiar with Withers’ game. It was probably the first time his skills were displayed in front of a national audience. He played in all 5 games, and even though it was a small sample size of his skills, he still averaged 10 PPG, 3 RPG and shot 56% from three. Displaying his ability to stand in the corner on the three-point line and be ready to drain a corner three. Running hard on the wing in a fastbreak situation and showing a willing desire to stick his nose into the paint and bang down low for every rebound he can possibly get. In an interview with the Charlotte Observer prior to the 2018 NBA Draft, Withers compared his game to Trevor Ariza, based on his “defensive versatility and 3-point shooting.” Ariza, who is still playing in the NBA, fifteen years after being drafted, is still a contributing player for most NBA teams. Withers comparison is pretty spot-on, and anyone who truly watches basketball can point out the similarities between the two players.
This Piston’s upcoming training camp, Withers will have his work cut out for him. Over the last two months the Pistons have brought in both Christian Wood and Joe Johnson on non-guaranteed contracts to compete for the final roster spot. Most consider Withers as a player that is not a threat to challenge either Wood or Johnson. He is more of a threat to dethrone either Jordan Bone or Louis King from their two-way contracts. Even though the pistons could use a player of Johnson’s caliber, who possesses great shot-creating ability – and even though they are in desperate need for a big of Wood’s stature – Withers still is an option for the final spot. He gives the team, a wing that shows great ability at making three-pointers, getting out in space to attack the rim on a break, and a willingness to compete on the defensive end. By him being on the smaller side, it’s doubtful he could take the spot away from Wood. But by him being much younger than Johnson and a more seasoned rookie, at 23 years of age, it’s arguable he can edge out Johnson in training camp. Johnson, who hasn’t played in the NBA in over a year but has been getting work done in the BIG3 League. If Withers doesn’t make the final roster spot for the Pistons…he still should be a player that the Pistons should look very closely at developing on a two-way contract. With his size, athleticism, and talent, he could be an exceptional player for the Pistons in the upcoming future. Especially with Detroit being a city that struggles with bringing star-talent to the team, the Pistons need to be more cerebral in the players they choose to invest time into and develop. Todd Withers is player that has overcome some odds and isn’t done just yet in his young NBA career. Training camp and preseason will be interesting to watch, as fans should mentor Withers’ play on the court. If he wants to compete and make a name for himself, he’ll have to assured extremely hard, not only in practice but in games as well. But rest assured, I don’t know if it’s wise to bet on the “underdog” from Queens…The university that is!
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