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.
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.
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.