|'Good to be back home:' Queens great Todd Withers returns|
|Pistons hopeful reunites with friends, fans|
|Published Wednesday, October 16, 2019 10:00 pm|
|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|Todd Withers, a Division II All-America who graduated Queens University of Charlotte in 2018, is trying to earn a job with the NBA's Detroit Pistons.|
Todd Withers is more than an ambassador for Queens Royals basketball.
The first player from the Division II program to sign with an NBA team, Withers returned to Charlotte Wednesday with Detroit for the Pistons’ final preseason game. Following film study, the 2018 All-America caught up with Royals coach Bart Lundy and former teammates as well as new Queens President Daniel Lugo.
From students asking Withers to take pictures to longtime campus staff stopping for a hug, the campus community welcomed him home with open arms.
“Kind of lost for words, honestly,” said Withers, a 2018 Queens graduate. “It feels good to be back home, especially seeing coach Lundy, seeing a lot of staff, a lot of family I had here. Being here all four years was life-changing for me. Being able to come back and see everybody and everybody remembering your face, and everybody still showing you as much love as they did before is amazing.”
Said Lundy: “All our guys want to be pros. We preach to them, ‘if you’re going to work as hard as we work, then you’re going to have an opportunity.’ Todd really exemplifies that, embraced that…but more than that. This is truly Todd’s family. He spent the four years here, but if you walk around campus with him, everyone knows him. Everyone loves him. He is Queens, and he is our program.”
Withers, a guard/forward, signed with the Pistons in July and made a case for himself with their Summer League team, averaging 10 points per game and 4.5 rebounds, shooting 57 percent from the 3-point line. The Pistons advanced to the quarterfinals from pool play with a 4-0 record as the No. 2 seed.
“Well, Todd has been a breath of fresh air,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said during a preseason media availability. “He came and worked all summer with our guys and did a lot of work in training camp – it was really good. He does what you ask him to do – he’ll run through a wall for you.”
Withers is familiar with the Pistons organization, spending last season with their G League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He played in 48 G League games, averaging 6.9 points per game and 5.5 rebounds.
“It was amazing,” Withers said. “It definitely gets you ready for the next level. It’s like maybe a minor step below. You’re still playing against the same caliber players. The road is hard. It’s a grind. Everybody thinks it’s so easy playing in the G League. It’s really, really hard—50 games is tough, grueling, but it definitely gets you ready for the next level.”
From increased strength to ball handling, Withers has work to do to make it in the NBA.
“He just needs to get stronger and probably handle the ball a bit better as a wing player in the NBA, but you can’t teach his motor, and that’s what sticks out with us from getting out of the G-League and in training camp and working with the main players,” Casey said. “Just his overall motor is unbelievable.”
Withers’ senior season at Queens proved historic as the first Royal to earn All-America status since 2004. They went 32-4, won the Southeast Regional title and advanced to the Elite Eight, which they had not done since 2003. Their trip to the national semifinals was a second in program history. Withers led them with 13.6 points per game, eight rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
“It’s kind of cool seeing him kind of grow up,” said senior Royals guard Daniel Carr. “Seeing him grow and get to this point, it made it real for me, personally. Seeing that he can do it, I feel like I can do it too.”
Said Withers: “Being able to show that Queens is a basketball powerhouse, for one, and then show that there are so many people who come from Queens. Especially in the NBA, coming from a DII [program] being able to be around all those big vets and you say your school, and they don’t even know where you’re from. They don’t even know it’s in Charlotte. Coming from something small like that and being able to broadcast it and show it around and flaunt it around has been amazing. Just showing that anything is possible, coming from anywhere… as long as you work hard.”
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