When Kyle Wiltjer initially announced his decision to look into transferring, many expected the Portland native to end up at Gonzaga. On Friday the news became official, as it was reported by multiple outlets that Wiltjer will be a Bulldog.
In two seasons at Kentucky Wiltjer averaged 7.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per contest. As a freshman he was a member of a team that won the program’s eighth national title but he played an average of just 11.3 minutes per game, with the combination of the talent ahead of him and issues on the defensive end of the floor contributing to the “low” number of minutes.
Wiltjer saw more than two times the minutes in 2012-13 on a team that lacked the depth John Calipari enjoyed during that national title run. A good perimeter shooter, Wiltjer shot 38.6% from beyond the arc as a Wildcat.
In confirming the news via his Twitter account, Wiltjer left the following message for the Wildcat faithful:
Dear BBN, this past month has been very emotional and challenging for me. Whether to transfer or not has been one of the toughest decisions of my life, so I would like to thank everyone for being so supportive through this process. I feel like in my basketball career I’m facing a make it or break it moment and the primary factor in this decision is transforming my body. I’m choosing to transfer to Gonzaga because i feel they have a proven plan in place to help develop players similar to me, which has seen great results. I believe with hard work I can maximize my development at Gonzaga. The last two years at UK have been a valuable experience and I’m very grateful for them. Even though I’m leaving the program, Coach Cal and I will continue our relationship and I will look to him for advice. He is more than just a coach to me. I have made many friends here and I plan to come back. My heart will always be in Lex.
Per NCAA transfer rules Wiltjer will have to sit out the 2013-14 season, and some have used this as an opportunity to make the direct correlation between Wiltjer and Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk took a redshirt year in 2011-12, working on his body and his game, and the end result was WCC Player of the Year and All-America honors.
To make the direct comparison would be a reach, especially when considering Olynyk’s ability in the post. Olynyk finished the 2012-13 season with an offensive rating of 123.3 per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers, which ranked 31st nationally, and he made 66% of his two-point shots.
While Wiltjer was an effective offensive player (rating of 112.0), he made just 48.4% of his two-point shots and more than half of his field goal attempts were three-pointers (150 three-point attempts, 128 two-point attempts). So while the two players may be separated by just a pound on their official bios (Olynyk weighed in at 238, Wiltjer at 239) there’s a lot more separating these two when it comes down to their respective strengths.
Can Wiltjer improve as a post player and a defender during his redshirt campaign? Sure he can, but to attempt to put him on the same path as Olynyk at this point in time isn’t a good idea.
Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.