Oct 11, 2012; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) talks with reporters during media day at Memorial Coliseum. Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
News broke today that former Kentucky Wildcats forward Kyle Wiltjer will transfer to Gonzaga University.
Bulldog fans were enamored with the prospect of Kyle Wiltjer transferring to Gonzaga. In fact, they have been flirting with the idea since about March. Because Wiltjer was the one that got away. For many fans, this feels like dating a girl during your junior year, after she spurned you as a freshman, and then suddenly she has a change of heart two years later- but you have no problem with it.
Mark Few and his staff were hot on Wiltjer’s trail when he was a high school student in the class of 2011. The soon to be senior from Jesuit high school in Portland, Oregon committed to Kentucky on August 28th, 2010, despite not visiting the campus in Lexington. For many GU fans, this was a crushing blow, leaving several thinking about what could have been. Even though it is two years late, Wiltjer is a Bulldog, much to the delight of the Gonzaga community.
As his recruitment was winding down, it was apparent that Gonzaga and Kentucky were the main contenders to be the suitors for Wiltjers services. The buzz around Wiltjers potential transfer slowed down immensely once Wiltjer shipped off to Russia to play for Canada’s World University Games team, who made it all the way to the semifinals. On said team was Gonzaga point guard Kevin Pangos, who certainly helped recruit Wiltjer to Gonzaga in some form or another. Also on the team was former Gonzaga forward Mangisto Arop, who transfered from Gonzaga after his sophomore year when his time at the program started to grow sour.
Wiltjer eventually decided that Gonzaga was the better fit down the road, and to be closer to home and start his new college basketball career in Spokane. This is a huge get for Mark Few and his staff. Kyle Wiltjer has the type of game that translates perfectly to the WCC. He is a phenomenal shooter, despite being 6’10”. He is a little weak as a power forward, but he can get by in the WCC as a player with elite skills. He is the consumate stretch 4, and will complement the bruising style of center Przemek Karnowski perfectly.
At Kentucky, Wiltjer wasn’t a world beater, but he was productive. As a sophomore last season, Wiltjer averaged 10.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. He was named the SEC’s sixth man of the year last season.
The former five-star recruit will have to sit out a season, because of the NCAA’s transfer rules. However, that would not be the worst thing in the world, and in fact could be beneficial to Wiltjer. Just ask former Gonzaga standout Kelly Olynyk how his red shirt season went.
Looking ahead, this is what Gonzaga’s starting lineup could potential be for the 2014-2015 season.
G-Gary Bell Jr.
With a senior laden back court of Pangos, Bell, and Coleman, combined with highly talented post players Wiltjer and Karnowski, this Gonzaga team could be very, very dangerous. Off the bench would be Angel Nunez, Ryan Edwards, Luke Meikle, Silas Melson, Dustin Triano, and Kyle Draginis. That should make any Gonzaga fan smile.