Gonzaga basketball: Impact of Kyle Wiltjer

Gonzaga basketball

Kyle Wiltjer while at Kentucky (Photo credit: Mark Zerof, USA TODAY Sports)

Over the years Gonzaga basketball has had several players transfer in and out. Some transfers have played a vital role in the team’s success like Dan Dickau, Erroll Knight and Micah Downs. Transfers help teams fill voids left by recruiting. On the 2013-2014 Gonzaga basketball roster Gonzaga has two transfers, Gerard Coleman and Angel Nunez who potentially could start and be key players.  The latest transfer, however, may be the most talented transfer to date.

Kyle Wiltjer played high school basketball at Jesuit in Portland, Oregon where he won back-to-back state championships. As a McDonalds All-American, Wiltjer was a highly sought after recruit, gathering interest from schools such as Kentucky, Gonzaga,  Kansas, Texas, California, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Wiltjer was a five-star recruit out of high school and decided to attend the University of Kentucky.

In his first season at Kentucky he played sparingly logging 11.6 minutes per game and averaging only 5 points per game.  Wiltjer was stuck behind three future NBA players in Darius Miller, Terrance Jones, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist all who helped the 2011-2012 Kentucky wildcats win the National Championship.

Gonzaga basketball

Kyle Wiltjer (Photo credit: James Crisp/AP)

Wiltjer’s second season at Kentucky he saw an increase in playing time. He averaged 23.8 minutes per game and scored 10.2 points per game but the Wildcats only made it to the NIT in a disappointing season.

As always Kentucky over-recruits. They have three forwards coming into the 2013-2014 squad, and two of them are five-star recruits. After a summer of indecision, Wiljer decided to transfer to Gonzaga where he will have to sit out the upcoming season, but will be a star for the Zags in the coming years.

Wiltjer will have two years at Gonzaga when he becomes eligible, and for a team already short on forwards, on paper it looks like he will be a perfect fit. Wiltjer has a variety of moves in the post, is a great passer and can flat out shoot the ball, which is especially rare for a 6-foot-10 player. He should fit very well into Gonzaga’s system of uptempo basketball and high pick and rolls. Wiltjer will be able to get the ball in places that allow him to score.

He was looking at Oregon, Oregon State, Portland and Texas according to ESPN before deciding on Gonzaga. Wiltjer wanted to take a year regardless if he transferred from Kentucky to work on his body, and Gonzaga is a perfect place for that. Kelly Olynyk went from a decent role player to NBA lottery pick in a redshirt year. I am not saying that Wiltjer will automatically be as good as Olynyk was in one season, but he will have a shot. Wiltjer will have a chance to change his body, become faster and more agile while refining his post skills and overall game.

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Once Wiltjer becomes eligible, he will be the Zags’ starting power forward on what could be a dangerous team. Gonzaga will have Pangos, Bell, Coleman, Nunez and Karnowski as possible starters, mixed in with a more dynamic Wiltjer and five star recruit Josh Perkins. Not to mention the fact that the 2014 recruiting class is not finished and still could add other studs in Malik Pope and Travis Reid.

If he can undergo the Olynyk transformation, Wiltjer will be the force of the Bulldogs. While he did leave possibly the top program in the country, Kentucky, instead of being recruited over, at Gonzaga Wiltjer can be the man. I expect big things from a former McDonald’s All-American and a player who has already won a National Championship.

Below is a link to some highlights of Wiltjer while in high school.

Kyle Wiltjer highlights

  • Wes Wells

    Well as a #BBN 4LIFE kind of person I hate to see Kyle Wiltjer leave, especially since even with all the amazing talent we gained for the 2013-2014 season we really need some older mature experienced players, yes we still have Jon Hood and Jared Polson which are great players and would school me in a one on one but they are not the level of talent to get many minutes or to take the leadership role on this team. Where Kyle Wiltjer I believe would have been that mature leader even as a red shirt and could have provided great knowledge to these young 18-19 year old freshmen. If he gets his body at the level his basketball IQ and skill set are at he would get playing time and I could see him surprising everyone as Josh Harrellson did back in the day. Zaga congratulations on gaining a potentially totally awesome and amazing player.

  • Mike

    Nice write up. This Wildcat fan wishes all the best for Kyle. Our loss is your gain.

  • Mark Dabney

    Hated to see Kyle leave UK, but it’s for the best. He never really was quick enough, in particular, defense. That aspect of his game is what he needs to work on the most, IMO. Best of luck Kyle, thanks for being a class act while at U.K.

  • sportschick

    At the point where you mentioned the 3 players he played behind at UK, you had not mentioned his position . Therefore, I think I would have mentioned he played behind Anthony Davis as well…. And it is Terrence Jones, not Terrance Jones.

  • Journalist Teacher

    Sorry, I must have missed the year when UK over-recruited. Since we “always” do it, would you mind just listing 1 single year EVER when we over-recruited? Never mind the AP style thing-start more basic. Present facts, don’t just make things up and you’ll be on your way to “journalism.”

  • J

    Kyle has potential, but he’s a long way from being a perfect fit, in an uptempo system.

  • Scott

    You need to take a refresher course in how to write in the AP style.