X Factors: Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer


Gonzaga is in for a treat when former Kentucky Wildcat Kyle Wiltjer hits the court for the Bulldogs for the first time in the 2014-15 season.  He’s a stretch four with a great shot.  His ability to shoot the ball will give opposing defenses fits trying to guard all of Gonzaga’s shooters.

At 6′ 10″, Wiltjer will be a force to be reckoned with.  At Kentucky he averaged 7.3 points per game and 2.8 rebounds per game.  In 2013 he won the SEC’s 6th man of the year award.  This is quite a prestegious given all of the talented players in the SEC that year.

Wiltjer attended Jesuit High School in Beaverton, OR, so this is his return to the west.  Since he is from the west he is already well known in the Spokane area.  There has been a buzz around Gonzaga even since it was confirmed that he would be transferring to GU.

The big man is set to make an immediate impact and I would be very surprised if he was not in the starting lineup right away.

Feb 27, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Mississippi State 85-55. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

I have said this before and I will say it again: Kyle Wiltjer is the definition of a stretch four.  His size will allow him to play down low, but his outside shot is what he is famous for.  Recently, Wiltjer posted a video of him making 70-75 three point shots in five minutes.  This video is crazy.  Even his misses look good!  He also posted a video of him making a half-court behind the back shot.  This guy has some major skill!  Along with amazing trick shots, Wiltjer can shoot very well from mid-range and from deep.

Adding another big man will impact the defense as well.  Having a 6′ 10″ forward will make it difficult for smaller teams to run their offenses through the post.

Wiltjer will impact the play of the rest of the team.  He will force opposing defenses to spread out.  This will open the paint for Przemek Karnowski.  He will be able to bang around down low easier.  If the defense decides to double team Karnowski then that will leave Wiltjer open to make easy jumpers.  I expect tams to run a lot of zone defense against the Zags this season.  Wiltjer’s ability to shoot from three point land will be imperative to the Zags’ success against the zone.

The arrival of Wiltjer will also impact guard play for the Zags.  I expect Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. to have higher assist numbers.  They should also have more open shot opportunities if teams are forced to double team the big men down low.  Byron Wesley should also have many one-on-one opportunities.  This will make it easy for him to drive to the basket.

Kyle Wiltjer will make it difficult for opposing teams to guard everyone on the court.  He will add electric offense and improve the defense.  He is primed for a breakout year and I cannot wait to see him get down to business.