If there is one thing Kyle Wiltjer wants Kentucky fans to know about his game, it would be that he wants to always win.
"I think that is just part of my nature. I don't like losing. Even if you are playing ping pong or something like that, I get mad when I?lose. I don't really know what it is. It's just in me and how I feel. I always want to win," Wiltjer said.
Perhaps that was put into his mind early by his father, Greg, a former player at Oregon State who played for the Canadian national team against the United States in the 1984 and 1992 Olympics. Or maybe it came from his love for watching old basketball videos he rented as a youngster of players like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.
"I kind of just grew up around the game. I was born into basketball. My father played overseas, and I traveled with him," the 6-9 freshman with the deft outside shooting touch said.?"I don't remember much, but it kind of got the ball in my hands early and sparked interest.
"When I was little I started watching films that I?found at a local Blockbuster and started to pick up on the game and wanted to play and get better. I worked really hard with my dad when I was little on my drills that I didn't think would be helpful. It was stuff I didn't want to do, but I stuck with it and it has really paid off."
His father's favorite drill was the George Mikan drill, a drill designed to help big men develop rebounding and scoring skills, including the ambidextrous hook shot Wiltjer now has. Wiltjer said he did that drill before every workout.
"It's like around the basket for touch and working on your hook shot. My dad was a big hook shot guy, so he kind of passed it on to me," he said. "Doing the George Mikan drill gets you better touch around the basket. I remember when I?was little my arms would be tired and I?would be like, ‘Dad, why I am doing this?' But it helped me hone my skills.
"Probably sixth through eighth grade is when?I really got serious about basketball and started getting in the gym more, working out with teammates. That is when I really picked up on basketball. That's when I started to realize how good the hook shot could be. It is a pretty tough shot against more athletic guys, because they can't really block it."
Kentucky coach John Calipari likes Wiltjer's versatility, even though he's still not quite sure what he might have him doing this season.
"He's got a great feel for the game. He's been well coached. His skill level is really ridiculous. It puts us at more of a European game, which I've always wanted to get, to be all long guys who can all put it on the floor and score," Calipari said. "It opens up the court now. Now the court is huge because you can't leave anybody.
Wiltjer has a competitive spirit. Pt 1
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