Wiltjer Prepares to Leave UK Basketball Teamm; Remaining Freshmen to Arrive on Campus
These articles appear courtesy of KY Forward and are written by Jon Hale.
Junior forward Kyle Wiltjer appears ready to leave the UK men’s basketball program.
Wiltjer, who is playing for the Canadian National Team this summer, informed head coachJohn Calipari he felt he could have a more prominent role at a different program than he would have at UK next season, Calipari said on his website.
“He expressed to me that that’s the kind of situation he wants to be in for his last two years of eligibility,” Calipari wrote. “For his future, he may be right.
“In my mind, Kyle is going to be a professional player as soon as his body begins to change. He has a mentality, a skill set and the length to be a pro, but the maturity of his body has not caught up with the rest of his game yet. He knows that and he’s working on that.
Wiltjer, the 2013 Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year, averaged 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 31 games as a sophomore. In his two-year UK career, he averaged 7.3 points and 2.8 rebounds in 73 games.
The Portland, Ore., native had previously announced in April that he would return to UK for his junior season.
“Heading into college my dream was to win a National Championship and compete with and play against the best players in the country,” Wiltjer wrote in an open letter on UK’s website. “Without a doubt, I accomplished both of these goals in my two years at Kentucky. Now as I head into my junior year, I recognize that my new and adjusted goals require me to make some very difficult upcoming decisions.
“During this next year, I will be working on my body so that I am able to compete the way I know I can. I want to find a situation that will help me do this as well as play a more significant role, wherever that may be. Even though I might physically leave Lexington, I will never forget the support and kindness that everyone has shown my family and me. It is difficult to put into words how hard it is to possibly leave BBN, yet I am confident that whatever I choose, I will give it my all. Regardless, I will always bleed blue and will never forget these amazing last two years at Kentucky.”
While neither Wiltjer nor Calipari described the transfer in definite terms in their letters, it appears to be the most likely scenario.
“Kyle’s choice to explore options at another school disappoints me, but it’s his decision at the end of the day, and I fully support his decision,” Calipari wrote. “I would love for him to go through this process and return to us, but I will support him and help him in any way I can. He’s a terrific young man, a great student, a tremendous basketball player and an excellent teammate. If he does choose to go somewhere else, that school will be very lucky.”
Calipari Expects Remaining Freshmen to Reach Campus Soon, Praises Summer Competition
The start of the 2013-14 men’s basketball season may still be almost five months away, but the next Wildcat team is already taking shape.
Five of the eight incoming freshmen are already on campus with Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and James Youngarriving as soon as this weekend.
“I think they’re going to come in this weekend, and what we’re hoping is that they’ll be able to flow into the six-week (summer school) session,” said UK head coach John Calipari on the Southeastern Conference summer coaches’ teleconference Monday. “And if they’re not, they’ll stay a couple more weekends and they’ll be fine and be here.
“I’m excited about those three. I wish they would have been here for the eight-week (session), but it’s happened before with Nerlens (Noel) and some other guys we’e had. They’ve had things to finish up, but they’re fine.”
As for the players already on campus — including sophomoresAlex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein — Calipari thinks the effect of added competition is already starting to show.
Calipari’s 2012-13 team featured only eight players who arrived at UK on scholarship. After a season-ending injury to Noel, the Cats’ bench grew even shallower.
Depth should not be an issue for next season’s team with nine former McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster.
Calipari said the problems that arose from a shallow bench during the 2012-13 NIT season taught him a valuable less about how to assemble his team in the future.
“I did it somewhat to protect some of the guys in the program, and you really can’t do it that way,” he said. “You’ve got to have the full complement. What happens is, now there’s competition, now you really see guys blossom.”
Cauley-Stein is being pushed in summer workouts by 6-foot-10 freshmen center Dakari Johnson and 6-foot-9 freshman forward Marcus Lee. Workout battles between Poythress and freshman forward Julius Randle have already garnered discussion from fans and those around the program.
“It’s a short period of time right now, but what you see is they’re on a mission like some of my best teams have been on,” Calipari said.
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