Originally posted on StraitPinkie.com  |  Last updated 7/19/13
After his last-second three point attempt went crying off the back of the rim at the end of the Robert Morris game, Kyle Wiltjer’s future with the Kentucky Wildcats has been in doubt. News broke merely days after the season-ending loss that Wiltjer wanted a transfer, others disputed the claim. For the time being, Kyle Wiltjer took to his Twitter account to tell the Big Blue Nation not to worry, he was going to stay a ‘Cat. This rumor was far from over, and when there is smoke, there is usually fire. The speculation came to it’s peak when the masses learned Wiltjer requested a release from Kentucky with the option to come back. After head coach John Calipari granted the release, Wiltjer said he would not make a decision until after the World University games. Today, that decision was made public with Wiltjer deciding to transfer to Gonzaga. For a high school player to commit to a school without visiting is very rare in today’s age. Kyle Wiltjer committed to Kentucky before ever setting foot on campus. He was used mostly as a reserve player in his first year at Kentucky. The 2012 ‘Cats hung banner #8 behind the stellar freshman class, including Wiltjer making timely 3-point shots. His skills are something that cannot be taught. Standing at 6’9”, with an assassin’s eye at the basket is a deadly weapon. Wiltjer knew he needed more than that to succeed at Kentucky, or anywhere in a higher level of basketball. He knew his weaknesses, and so did the rest of the Big Blue Nation. He has a slow first step, a liability on defense, and his body needed to get stronger overall. Essentially, he was a summer gym program away from being a major contributor for Kentucky. After returning for the 2013 season, the fans and coaching staff noticed the same Kyle Wiltjer. He wasn’t much stronger, his footwork hadn’t improved, and his liabilities continue to handicap him. In a system that John Calipari says he cannot “hide” players, Wiltjer was constantly looking for a place to cover up. Being forced into a starter role without much improvement from the past season doomed him in the end. The frustrations began to build as he was continually eaten alive by more athletic, and skilled wing/post players in the SEC. His ever reliable shooting stroke started to wane, and his confidence was lost. It was truly fitting that Wiltjer missed the last-second 3-point shot to end Kentucky’s 2013 season. The game vs. Robert Morris and the missed shot at the end was a symbolic anecdote to the season. The ‘Cats were continually beat on the mental aspects of the game. Wiltjer could not save the ‘Cats in the NIT, or himself. He was exposed and there was nowhere to hide. Gonzaga is not a surprising destination. They have continually been a favorite in the NCAA Tournament as a shocking “cinderella” that refuses to let their clock strike midnight. While the ‘Zags have not had the same postseason successes, they are still making their mark on the national scene. Just last season, as Kentucky was battling Robert Morris in the NIT, Gonzaga had a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Even though the Bulldogs compiled an impressive 31-2 record, their soft as a cupcake West Coast Conference schedule raised some doubt. The ‘Zags did nothing to shush those critics when they defeated #16 Southern University by a measly 6 points. The Bulldogs season ended in the next round against eventual Final Four participant Wichita State. Kyle Wiltjer has a tremendous skill set, and he will be a star at Gonzaga and in the West Coast Conference. He will not be the next Kelly Olynyk or Adam Morrison. He may not become a first round pick, but he will be the focal point of an offense that should allow him to “hide” a little more. Gonzaga will “protect” Wiltjer more than he was under Calipari. The pressure valve will be slightly released, and the dynamite shooting stroke will return. I wish Kyle Wiltjer nothing but the best on his transfer, and I hope he continues to improve as a basketball player. The Big Blue Nation will miss those 3-goggles and those hilarious You-Tube videos. Thank him for being a crucial part of the 2012 National Championship, and making a decision that is in his best interests. Godspeed, #33.
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