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Kyle Wiltjer sounds like he’s going to transfer from Kentucky — but really doesn’t want to.

Wiltjer, who was a reserve on UK’s 2012 national championship team and the Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year last season, said in April he was returning to UK for his junior season even though coach John Calipari was bringing in a class loaded with numbers and talent.

He averaged 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Wiltjer was second on the team with 55 3-pointers last season and made 90 over his two-year Kentucky career. He was expected to be UK’s top 3-point shooter this season.
Calipari was on the Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference Monday morning but made no mention of Wiljter’s plans. Instead, he broke the news on his own website,

Wiltjer has played with the Canadian National Team this summer and made a trip to China for exhibition games that just ended.

“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,” Calipari wrote. “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.”

If that sounds a big cold-hearted from Calipari, it didn’t seem to bother Wiltjer — just as the coach’s prodding the last two seasons for him to improve his defense, add weight and get tougher didn’t. Wiljter’s father, Greg, is a former professional player and helped instill an attitude in his son that let him accept constructive criticism in a realistic way.

While Wiltjer didn’t officially say he’s transferring, his letter to the Big Blue Nation at the same website. Wiltjer wrote:

“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.

“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.”

That’s a classy way to go out — and what anyone who knows Wiltjer would expect. He was never one to pout or complain. He was never one to heap praise on himself. He just played basketball and understood his role.

Kentucky returns Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. The Cats add Julius Randle, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson. That’s a lot of talent — and competition for playing time with Wiltjer

But don’t forget Wiltjer was part of the recruiting class with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, all McDonald’s All-Americans and all first-round NBA draft picks after their freshmen season. Wiltjer was also a McDonald’s All-American.

“I felt like over the next few years he was going to develop into the player I know he will eventually become,” Calipari said in his statement. “Unfortunately, that may happen somewhere else.”

If, or when, Wiltjer transfers, he’ll have to sit out a year. What about just redshirting at Kentucky and then playing his final two years for the Cats? There was no mention of that, but remember Jeff Sheppard. He was a reserve on UK’s 1996  national title team, redshirted in 1997 when UK lost in the title game and then was Final Four MVP in 1998 when UK won the title again.

But with Calipari going public with the news on — he didn’t even let his go-to media guy, ESPN’s Andy Katz, break the news — it seems unlikely that Wiltjer will return.

“No one should feel that they have to leave after a year or they’ve failed,” Calipari wrote on his website. “Many will leave after a year, but that’s their path. Others will stay four years, but that’s their path. 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. .

“Anytime a player doesn’t feel like he can achieve those dreams with us, I feel like we’ve failed him, not that he’s failed us. I told Kyle I’ll play whatever part he wants in his transfer, whether that’s being involved and calling other schools on his behalf or not being involved in any way. He expressed to me that he needs my help and advice, which I will give. Whatever Kyle chooses — and I still hope he ends up back with us — I wish him and his family the best of luck.”

18 Responses to Wiltjer going out in same classy manner he always showed at Kentucky

  • YVETTE says:

    I really hate to see Kyle leave! Hope he changes his mind. He is needed! Best of Luck to him.

  • Theresa says:

    I wish Kyle all the best wherever he lands (as long as it is not UofL, Duke, UNC, or IU). Nevertheless, he will still have to work hard on developing his body, his defense and his slow feet; if he feels that Lexington is not the best place for him to do that, then it is not because, after all, attitude changes everything. His letter to BBN sounds like a young man who is torn between doing what he thinks is best for himself and what he wants. I am sure that playing on the Canadian team opened his eyes to what he could be and do in a different system, plus at least 10 of the other Canadian players also play in the NCAA so that may have played a roll in Kyle’s thought as well. I think that I will miss his sweet little hook shot more than I realize right now. Good luck, Kyle, you will be missed!

  • Hugh W says:

    I watched Kyle’s half-sister (Jordan Adams) play basketball in high school in Nevada and at New Mexico, and she was an exceptional player and friend of the family. I was excited when Kyle committed to UK. While he needed to keep improving, I think he was a key player, because with his outside shooting and passing ability, zones were not as effective. He understands that he needs to work on some things, and I thought redshirting a year, like Jeff did, would be a great idea. I know this was not an easy decision for Kyle. Whereever he goes, he still will leave some wonderful memories of his outside shooting, his cheering on his teammates, and his team play. While I sincerely wish he would stay, I wish him success whereever he goes. He will always be a Wildcat, and I am sure would be welcome in Rupp at any time. It is a difficult decision for him, but we all have to remember, it is Kyle’s life he has to live. Good luck on whatever decision you make!!

  • ukscat says:

    Damn Theresa, you made me get out the Kleenex.

  • King Ghidora says:

    Larry do you know how it might affect Kyle needing to sit out a year if he redshirts at UK then finds that Cal has signed another monster class of talent? If he sits out this season at UK would he be immediately eligible to play at another school without sitting out another year? That would be my big concern if I was Kyle thinking about staying at UK as a redshirt. I would hope sitting out a year would be the same no matter where he was going to school but I just don’t that rule. Do you know how that works?

  • Jim says:

    A young man from Mason county played four years at Kentucky and is now in the pros. I seem to recall that he was a 6th man, for his senior season.

  • Larry Pup says:

    King it is probably like the situation involving the Davis twins who red shirted last year at Pitt and transferred to UK. The way I understand it, they will have to sit out a year. I don’t know if that is exactly how it would be for Kyle if he red shirts, but my guess is it would require him to sit out a year if he were to transfer.

    • larryvaught says:

      If Kyle transfers, see no way he will not have to sit out a year. But sure he understands that

  • King Ghidora says:

    So even if he sits out a year at UK as a redshirt he’ll still have to sit out another year if he would transfer after a redshirt year at UK?

  • Little Baron says:

    Kyle Wiltjer did not get fully utilizes for several reasons:
    • a PG who hurt the team and really hurt the guys who can shoot the ball
    • a lack of support when he tried to drag the team with him mid-season, resulting in a decrease in effort as he wore down from the lack of having a PG who could run the team
    • an offense that has never focused on setting screens for outstanding shooters the way other coaches do
    • lack of an offense that capitalized on his inside moves including his hook shot … There were games where he made some excellent moves inside.

    I believe the excellent game he had with the Canadian team revealed to him that his talent had not been utilized the past 2 years, especially his shooting from long range. Now he realizes it will be more of the same if he stays.

    I don’t think he thought about transferring until he excelled for Canada.

  • Little Baron says:

    Cal has a successful system that is not the best for everyone, and it does require excellent defensive skills. As much as I’d like to see Kyle stay, it does seem he could excel and use his shooting skills under another coach. I just hope he doesn’t go to Duke or UL but wish him the very, very best. A class act for sure!

  • Kyle is a Kentucky Wildcat….He’s a Honorable Young Man, with a Great attitude and He is Loved By BBN. Kyle Has A National Championship Ring and could likely have TWO more. Kyle should stay at Kentucky and work harder. Get an Attitude and Fight like your in Battle every time you step on the Floor, in practice & Games ! Kyle is just To Dang Nice, Where’s Dan Issel, That’s The Kyle I Want To See ! Kyle ” Issel ” Wiltjer….Do That Kyle and you won’t have to worry about Playing Time. When was the last time you got a Bloody Nose or Fat Lip from an elbow down low…? ” Exactly ” and that’s what you should fight for before you give up at KENTUCKY. It’s not for Everybody, But Kyle, it could be for you…Now GET MAD, and TAKE THE BALL FROM YOUR COMPETITORS, even your Team Mates. ” No More Mr. Nice Guy ! “

  • Yes, I have stated this before about Kyle & Alex…Hate repeating the obvious…

  • RJ says:

    Just remember that “what goes around, comes around”. Coach Cal has a ‘system’ and thank goodness he can recruit the talent needed to compete in that system. Someday, however, he’ll wish he had a guy like Kyle. But, that’s a long time away when the talent starts going to other schools. By then, Cal will have retired to more favorable climates.

    Still, It is sad that a class act like Kyle has to go elsewhere to find his dreams. Sad but it is life!

  • Anonymous says:

    I wish Kyle well but like Cal said he cannot hide players in his system. The system he played in with his fellow canadians is obviously one he will flourish in. He would have still been recruited over for the 2014 season.

  • Judi Cole says:

    Little Baron, I agree with you. Kyle’s talents were not developed or utilized because of Cal’s system or the lack of a true point guard last season. Kyle has been one of my favorites and I sure wish he wouldn’t leave, but understand that he has to do what’s best for him. It will be hard to watch him excel elsewhere knowing that he could be helping our beloved Wildcats!

  • Andy says:

    Can’t hide a kid in Cals system and Kyle was a foot slower defensively and that does not work out well under his system. The new system he played with in China probably adjusted to his strengths. I will miss him but we will be just fine. I wonder if Cal will look for a transfer ?

  • King Ghidora says:

    I’m guessing Kyle figures he can play more someplace where the competition may not be quite as tough as what he faces in the SEC and the games prior to the SEC. UK plays in a tough conference and they will take advantage of someone who is slow on D. But I really think Kyle can overcome that. I was slow and awkward as a freshman in high school. By the time I was a senior I had turned that around and was much quicker even if I still wasn’t super quick by any stretch. People can learn to adapt to things too. His speed isn’t that bad but of course quickness and speed are two different things. Kyle’s problem, IMO, is that he was playing what amounted to a small forward but he needs to play power forward. He did very well as an inside passer and scorer and his defense was much better inside also. At 6’10″ he’s certainly big enough to play inside in college especially.


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