A McDonalds All-American, five star recruit, subsequent national champion, and now a Zag. While jumping to the assumption that Wiltjer is an upgrade from Sam Dower is entirely unfair, the seamless pipeline of solid Gonzaga power forwards does not stray given the impact Wiltjer will make.
Spending last season redshirting to work on his body, it is not known exactly how much weight Wiltjer put on, but the 6’10″ previously 239 pound stretch four will be a physically different player than in years past.
Time at University of Kentucky
At UK, Wiltjer averaged 5.0 points and 1.8 boards as a freshman, improving to 10.2 and 4.2 as a sophomore. Playing 23.8 minutes per game (over double than his freshman year), the highly once elite high school recruit experienced a humbling couple of years at the factory that imports seemingly bigger, and better wildcats each year. But in his second year after minor contributions to Kentucky’s national championship in 2012, the Wildcats mightily struggled while Wiltjer’s play turned heads. Winning SEC 6th man of the year in 2013, he notched over 20 points on three occasions knocking down at least four threes (and as many as seven) in four games.
That being said, unfortunate circumstances presented Wiltjer with the decision to transfer, and he expressed his bittersweet departure in a letter to Big Blue Nation (Kentucky’s fan base). I mean for crying out loud this actually happened:
*disclaimer, before watching, please take a moment to fully soak in the group name “White Boy Academy”*
Impact at Gonzaga
Kyle Wiltjer is poised for a breakout year. The biggest question mark for Wiltjer will be how he plays down low. Gonzaga typically runs power forwards down low, and coach Few is a system coach. In an interview this past February, Wiltjer mentioned preparing his body to work in the post, and with Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis, and Nerlens Noel dominating the front court during his two years at Kentucky his duties carried mostly to the perimeter.
Logistically playing alongside center Przemek Karnowsi should be beneficial to the both of them: Karnowski as a force in the post and on the glass, and Wiltjer as a scorer who can roam in and out of the post.
The dynamic scoring big man is a player who will not only shine on the court, but also will earn the affection of Zag Nation just as he did at Kentucky.