For more than a month the future of Kyle Wiltjer has been up in the air. The 2012 National Champion made his decision earlier today. Rather than spend another season on the bench behind yet another impressive recruiting class, the 6'10" power forward will transfer to Gonzaga.
In a tweet from Friday afternoon, Wiltjer said,
Dear BBN (Big Blue Nation), this past month has been very emotional and challenging for me. Whether to transfer or not has been one of the toughest decisions of my life, so I would like to thank everyone for being so supportive through this process. I feel like in my basketball career I'm facing a make it or break it moment and the primary factor in this decision is transforming my body. I'm choosing to transfer to Gonzaga because i feel they have a proven plan in place to help develop players similar to me, which has seen great results. I believe with hard work I can maximize my development at Gonzaga. The last two years at UK have been a valuable experience and I'm very grateful for them. Even though I'm leaving the program, Coach Cal and I will continue our relationship and I will look to him for advice. He is more than just a coach to me. I have made many friends here and I plan to come back. My heart will always be in Lex.
Thank you BBN,
The Zags were an early favorite for Wiltjer for a number of reasons. First, Gonzaga had been recruiting Wiltjer since his days at Portland's Jesuit High School (where he played with former Zag Mike Hart). Along with the familiarity due to history and proximity, the Zags had another in with Wiltjer. A Canadian-American, Wiltjer played for Canada alongside the Zags' junior point guard Kevin Pangos earlier this offseason.
Wiltjer's tweet mentioned a "proven plan in place to help develop players". That plan is no doubt a reference to fellow Canadian Kelly Olynyk, who sat out the 2011-12 season and transformed from a 7'0" jump shooter into one of the nation's most efficient low post players. Wiltjer will have to sit out the upcoming season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Like Olynyk, Wiltjer has a strong perimeter game, he's a career .390 3pt shooter, but is lacking skill in the paint. This past season with the Wildcats Wiltjer averaged 10.2 points in 23.8 minutes per game. However, he was fifth on the team with 4.2 rebounds per game.
The Zags were chasing a couple big name big man transfers this offseason but missed out on both. Josh Davis chose San Diego State while Mike Moser settled on Oregon. Those two players are eligible for the upcoming season. With Wiltjer sitting this season out the Zags' frontcourt will be in the hands of senior Sam Dower and sophomore Przemek Karnowski.