Kyle Wiltjer to Gonzaga: A Bright Future Moving Forward

Hayden DeitrickFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2013

Mar 15, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) keeps the ball away from Vanderbilt Commodores forward Rod Odom (0) during the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Vanderbilt won 64-48. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports
Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Wiltjer is officially taking his talents to Spokane, Washington next season per Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports and Jeff Goodman of ESPN.

Kyle Wiltjer will sit out a season to satisfy the NCAA rules on transferring, but he will be eligible to play the following season.

This transfer appears to be mutually beneficial to both parties as Wiltjer will get back from Gonzaga everything he is capable of giving them.

Gonzaga emerged as a favorite to land Wiltjer due mainly to the reasons he listed for transferring away from Kentucky.

The big man out of Canada stated in his open letter to Big Blue Nation that he was looking to work on his body to improve his draft stock as well as find a team that would give him a greater opportunity to contribute.

Gonzaga’s ability to transform a big man for NBA success can easily be seen in the redshirt season metamorphosis that Kelly Olynyk underwent two seasons ago.  Olynyk went from bench warmer to NBA Lottery pick with help from Gonzaga’s training staff.

Also, with a bevy of talent coming into Lexington this season, Wiltjer’s minutes were in jeopardy just a season after he saw only 23.8 MPG on the floor.  Wiltjer will feature in Gonzaga’s system when he is eligible to play.

While it is easy to claim that this is a step down for Wiltjer, consider that Gonzaga was ranked #1 in the nation for a time last season and has not missed the NCAA Tournament in over ten years.

With a back court of Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr., and Providence transfer Gerard Coleman likely to return after this season, Wiltjer and the Zags will have an offense to match any team in the nation.

Gonzaga’s coaching staff did a fantastic job luring this transfer.  With the loss of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris to the NBA Draft and graduation, Gonzaga was left with a depleted front court. 

While Wiltjer is not able to play in the coming season, he will bring a Championship attitude and a unique skill set to practices.

More than anything, Kyle Wiltjer is the final piece of a movement that has gone on for the past three seasons.

While Gonzaga did lose key players such as Dmetri Goodson and Ryan Spangler and role players such as Mathis Keita and Mathis Monninghoff to transfers, the coaching staff did not panic, and, in fact, replaced all these players with more talented incoming transfers such as Gerard Coleman of Providence, Angel Nunez of Louisville, Drew Barham of Memphis, and now Kyle Wiltjer.

Gonzaga basketball is more relevant now than in recent memory, and the Zags are clearly building towards a very bright future.


Follow Hayden Deitrick on Twitter: @hdeitrick