News of Kentucky big man Kyle Wiltjer’s intent to transfer to Gonzaga broke yesterday. Many were left wondering what his exact motivations were to step away from a likely championship contender in favor of a mid-major such as Gonzaga.
Wiltjer took to Twitter to address Big Blue Nation one last time to provide closure to what has actually been a refreshing transfer saga, and his letter made his motivations to transfer clear.
He began by thanking the Kentucky fans for their support throughout the difficult process of deciding whether or not to transfer away from Lexington.
“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.”
After averaging just 10.2 PPG for a disappointing Wildcats team that looked to him to provide leadership, Wiltjer’s draft stock was called into question. While it is abundantly clear that Wiltjer is a good college basketball player, it is not easy to identify one skill that sets him apart from other pro prospects.
As the Canadian big man looks to diversify his skill set and work his way into the NBA draft, he should look no further than Kelly Olynyk for the perfect example to follow. Olynyk went from a bench warmer who averaged 5.8 PPG to an All-American who raised his scoring to 17.8 PPG, and Wiltjer would be ecstatic to see similar growth in his game.
Olynyk’s success followed a redshirt season in which he put on significant muscle mass with help of the Gonzaga training staff. Wiltjer said, “I'm choosing to transfer to Gonzaga because I feel they have a proven plan in place to help develop players similar to me (Kelly Olynyk), which has seen great results.”
Wiltjer went on to say that he can “maximize [his] development at Gonzaga.” This can certainly happen if he can occupy the same role that Kelly Olynyk played this season.
Like Olynyk, Wiltjer is already a high-percentage shooter. If Wiltjer is able to create a strong frame and a better post game a la Kelly Olynyk, he will have as versatile a skill set as the NBA lottery pick that preceded him.
This is in no way saying that Wiltjer is the heir apparent to redshirt success, but with more strength, Wiltjer is more than capable of being a leader for the Zags.
Wiltjer ended his letter by again thanking Big Blue Nation and Coach Calipari, stating that he would stay in contact with Cal.
“Thank you for helping us win a national title and working so hard for me the last two years. Go prove me right! You can play!!— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) July 19, 2013
From these tweets from John Calipari, it is clear that the Kentucky coach is very invested in his now-former player, and he will surely look to continue to be an influence in his life.
While Kyle Wiltjer’s transfer decision took a long period of time, he was very professional and open about the decision he had to make and was very thankful for the fans and their support.
It can only be hoped that other high-profile transfers will follow Wiltjer's example of openness and respect for the process.