As the Kentucky faithful are quickly approaching Big Blue Madness, fans are eager to learn as much as possible about the new players on the 2012-13 basketball roster. With that in mind, this will be the first submission in a series of articles discussing all of the newcomers for this season's team.
With that being said, there is one significant contributor who is returning from last year's squad and that is Kyle Wiltjer. The sweet-shooting forward is expected to have a greatly expanded role as he transitions from being the sixth man on last year's team to being featured as a starter this season.
Wiltjer stands 6'10" tall and is expected to start at the power forward spot, although he should occasionally fill in at small forward as well. His key attribute is his perimeter shooting, which he showed off last year during the team's championship run.
In fact, he finished the season converting on 43.2 percent of his three-point attempts, finishing just below Doron Lamb for the team lead in that category. He has shown an ability to hit long-range shots from well beyond the arc and has near unlimited range from outside.
This skill will be very important if the Wildcats hope to mimic the success of Calipari's previous three teams. This appears to be a team lacking in perimeter shooters, as only Wiltjer and Julius Mays have proven to be consistent three-point specialists.
Therefore, Wiltjer's shooting touch will be in high demand all season long. Luckily for him, though, it is not the only skill that he possesses as he is truly an all-around offensive threat. Kyle uses a very effective hook shot when posting up down low, which is very effective against unexpecting defenders.
What will be most important to Kyle's improvement this season is his increased athleticism. His lack of strength and developed muscle was exposed at time during his freshman season, but his father assures everyone that his son has been training all summer to improve his ability to be effective in the post and on the fast break.
“He has definitely gained weight,” Wiltjer’s father said. “He’s hovering around 240 pounds now. You can physically see the wider shoulders and he can still put on more weight, but he is stronger. I have been in the gym a little pushing on him a little bit and I can definitely tell he is stronger. And his shot is as accurate as ever. He’s ready for a big year.”
This will also be important if Wiltjer hopes to be an effective defender in the post. Last season he did show improvement in this area, but for much of the season he was a liability on the defensive end of the court. Therefore, Kentucky fans hope that his training and preparation this summer will transform Kyle into a tougher, physical and more effective low-post defender.
Projecting ahead, expect Wiltjer to be a major offensive contributor with his elite three-point shooting and crafty low-post game. As long as his new and improved athletic build lives up to the hype, he should post averages of 12 points, five rebounds and one block per game during the 2012-13 season. Only time will tell, but the future looks bright for Kyle Wiltjer.
If you enjoyed this player preview, be sure to check back tomorrow for the next team preview focusing on Nerlens Noel. Please leave your comments below or leave feedback on my Twitter feed @PaulAbles