With one of the most talent-laden incoming draft classes of all time seemingly set to diminish his role, soon-to-be junior Kyle Wiltjer has decided to transfer from the University of Kentucky.
Rivals' Brett Dawson has the news:
Wiltjer also wrote a letter further detailing the reason for his decision, via Kentucky's official athletics website:
Heading into college my dream was to win a National Championship and compete with and play against the best players in the country. 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. Coach Cal has been everything I expected him to be, as I have felt very comfortable talking with him about my situation. I cannot stress enough how supportive Coach has been during this period. He is more than a coach to me, and for that I am forever grateful.
If there's anyone who can absorb losing a player with Wiltjer's talent, it's Kentucky.
Not only will the Wildcats return burgeoning freshman stars Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, but they bring in the nation's clear No. 1 class.
While bruising power forward Julius Randle (No. 2 recruit in the nation, per 247 Sports) is the headliner, twins Andrew (No. 5) and Aaron Harrison (No. 6) will make up an electric backcourt, while James Young (No. 9), Dakari Johnson (No. 10), Marcus Lee (No. 18), Derek Willis (No. 131) and Dominique Hawkins (No. 193) round out the unbelievable class.
It can easily be argued that John Calipari is bringing in the top prospect at four of the five positions, with Young, the only outlier, still being a top-five small forward.
Despite the influx of talent, Wiltjer very likely could have played a consistent, albeit diminished, role.
In addition to providing a crucial veteran presence to the young team, the 6'10" power forward's versatile offensive skill set would have helped the Wildcats stretch the floor.
Nevertheless, it would have been tough for him to approach the 23.8 minutes per game he received as a sophomore, and if he is focused on taking his game to the next level, becoming a first or second option at a different school is a necessary move.
Calipari, via CoachCal.com, addressed that in a statement on Monday:
After playing with Canada, Kyle feels like he could have a more prominent role in another program than he might have with us next season. He expressed to me that that’s the kind of situation he wants to be in for his last two years of eligibility. 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.
It's unclear at this point as to where Wiltjer will go, but it's worth noting that he went to high school at Jesuit in Portland, Ore., and was originally interested in several West Coast schools before choosing the Wildcats.
Although he will have to sit out a season before using up his last two years of eligibility, there is going to be a long line of teams battling for his services.