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Vinsel: 'Withers Is A Guy Who Will Blossom At North Carolina'

Jae'lyn Withers
Jae'lyn Withers (

North Carolina made a big move Wednesday in solidifying its roster for the 2023-24 season. The Tar Heels added Jae'lyn Withers out of the transfer portal.

The 6-foot-9, 220 pound rising redshirt senior averaged 8.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in his three seasons at Louisville. He is known as more of a stretch four after his once low three-point shooting percentage ballooned to 41.7 percent last year.

Sean Vinsel may know more about about Withers from his days in Louisville than anyone. He is the founder of Hoops Insight which focuses on the Cardinals basketball program from an advanced statistics perspective. He has been publishing his highly informative newsletter for the past eight years.

Obviously, we were thrilled to get to speak with him about Withers. There was no buyer's remorse after the interview. Vinsel gave as thorough of an assessment as imaginable about the newest Tar Heel:

THI: What is North Carolina getting in Jae'lyn Withers?

VINSEL: "I think Jae'lyn Withers is the kind of player who is more than you would think from looking at his college career so far. I wrote this about him last year when I did his profile. He has had three different college careers. But I think this most recent year is really indicative of what he can become, and that's really a guy who thrives in a stretch-four role, but brings probably a little bit more of the ability to kind of play on the interior a little bit more than probably leaning toward the perimeter. He can definitely shoot from the outside. In high school when he was recruited he was more of a perimeter guy.

"He redshirted a year then played on the interior. He was really kind of lost at Louisville in the shuffle. Last season was obviously a disaster for Louisville. Really the only time they showed any real competency on offense was when they went to spreading the floor, and played Withers as a stretch four. He started lighting it up from the outside both shooting the ball from three obviously, I think he was 42%, and attacking closeouts. He started showing some ability to do that while still kind of rebounding for his position. He brings a lot of ability to come in and rebound, but also stretch out the perimeter. I think he is a great fit as a role player at a bigger school.

"The last couple of years he was kind of miscast as a guy who was a perimeter creator, maybe an offensive initiator at Louisville. I think that was stretching it too far. I think the weaknesses he brings is he's not really a playmaker at all. He's not going to make a lot of passes for others even attacking closeouts. He's really scoring for himself. I think his turnover problems last year were overblown. It was the product of the fact that Louisville really didn't have any ball handlers.

"I would be surprised to kind of see that taper back. I think he is a really nice fit in that role that North Carolina needs who can stretch the floor, and shoot a little bit, rebound, and even potentially defend on the interior. He did that as a freshman, and even last year in very small spurts toward the end of the season Louisville started playing Withers at the five as opposed to starting him at the three, and sometimes the four. They actually started having some success. Against Virginia he had real success in limited time at the five. So I think he is a really good frontcourt piece for North Carolina. I think it is an absolutely perfect offensive system for him."

THI: You called Withers a stretch four. Two years ago Hubert Davis struck gold with Brady Manek. Last year he didn't get as lucky with Pete Nance. Next year you've Armando Bacot in the post, and potentially a pretty dynamic backcourt. How does he fit with guards who can put the ball on the floor, and a big who plays with his back to the bucket?

VINSEL:"That's exactly the fit he needs. Last year really all Louisville had in terms of trying to be competent offensively was El Ellis beating guys off the dribble, and either trying to score, or kicking it out to shooters. When they started having some success against teams, and putting some points up on the board was when they started spreading the floor and letting Ellis attack more. Withers was really a catch and shoot guy off that penetration.

"He really hadn't got to play that role before, because the year before Louisville had no guards who could beat anyone off the dribble. His freshman year he was really an interior player. The guards weren't really making plays for others. They were score first guards. When he finally got to a point where guys could beat someone off the dribble, and Withers could spot up on the outside he really started getting in a groove. So I think he is going to fit tremendously with what North Carolina has.

"Also, something he really succeeded at earlier in his career, but he didn't get a lot of opportunity last year because Louisville's bigs couldn't move the ball was Withers was actually excellent at cutting to the basket and kind of scoring on quick movement around the basket. I think he'll really be an interesting fit with Bacot if Bacot can find him a little bit around the basket. I think the two-man game will really do well. So I think Withers is a great fit for what they've got. They've got other guys who are going to get attention and Withers thrives off of that."

THI: You talked about a role while ago. Is he a guy who comes off the bench, or is he a player who can start at that four spot?

VINSEL:"I think he can legitimately start at the four spot. The interesting thing is that last year most of the problem Louisville had was related to having no ball handlers. They had no interior defenders who could protect the rim. Withers on offense was probably the most consistent source of positive things that happened to them. I actually went into this off-season thinking Withers was the guy Louisville needed to keep the most. I thought he had the skill set the most that could play with other players as they got more and more guys involved.

"Last year he had tremendous turnover problems as an individual player really because Louisville would throw him the ball and tell him to create in late clock, and that is not what he does. I think especially given what North Carolina has in the backcourt as primary scorers, and Bacot getting so much attention I think Withers really fits into that four role really nicely for them. Sneakily, Withers didn't play a lot of minutes last year, but during his college career he's put up between 13 to 15 points per 40 minutes. It's just his playing time has really been inconsistent.

"Last year he showed me some stuff where I really think he can probably play at a much higher level than he was at. I think he is a guy that will blossom at North Carolina in a little bit better system with guys around him that will not put so much on him."

THI: What do you see as his ceiling at North Carolina?

VINSEL: "I think he is a guy that will be a double digit scorer and maybe six or seven rebounds a game. He is sneakily a really good defensive rebounder. Last year when Louisville had a lot of problems on the defensive glass the one guy who was consistent, and actually brought it every night in terms of defensive rebounding was Withers. I think that will be huge, because obviously if you're going to play the four for Carolina you're going to have to get those defensive rebounds, and help ignite the break. I think he can help with some of that. I think he is a guy who can be a piece on a team that actually wins games.

"If you kind of let him do the things that he is good at I would be surprised to see him be a guy who is really a contributor in winning basketball games at North Carolina as a starter. I think he can get double digit scoring, and six or seven rebounds per game, and be the guy North Carolina fans will say, 'Oh yeah, he was a really nice piece. I didn't expect a whole lot from him, but he really filled in and made a difference for them in the frontcourt. So I'm really excited to see him in a better situation honestly."

THI: Are there any player comparisons that remind you of him?

VINSEL:"This is a stretch. He's not there athletically or ball handling, and he is not this type of prospect, but a Marvin Williams type of game where he is kind of a taller guy who has a build that should probably play the four. He may get miscast at times trying to play the three, and be more of a perimeter guy who can thrive bringing some skills to the four position.

"He's not going to be a real playmaker for others, but I think he can score from the outside, and I think at North Carolina he'll be able to score around the rim a little bit, and attack closeouts really nicely to get some baskets. I think he is going to fill the power forward role that a lot of good Carolina teams have had which is really interesting to me. I think he is an absolutely great fit to me. He's definitely a different type of player than they had last year. Nance was probably more of an interior guy, almost like a stretch-five who could masquerade a little bit as a shooter, but really wasn't that guy shooting from the outside. Withers has absolutely grown into being a true stretch four who brings a little bit of the interior skills too.

"He's definitely more of an interior guy than a playmaker in terms of the secondary skills. I think he is a great fit for what North Carolina does. Honestly, I don't know that I could have thought of many more systems that will use him better than North Carolina will."

THI: It sounds to me like he has a true role at the four.

VINSEL:"Yeah, definitely a role at the four. I think he could probably play the five a little bit more than the three mostly because his redshirt freshman year at Louisville he had to kind of play the five out of necessity. He really isn't a strong rim protector, but he is a very good rebounder, and a very good interior scorer in terms of kind of being crafty, and getting some things going on the inside. So I think he can slide into the backup five in a pinch, but definitely more of that than a three. But he is primarily a stretch four, and that is where he will make shots."