The Wiltjer Decision: A Closer Look

What does Kyle Wiltjer's decision to transfer from UK mean for the Wildcats this season? We touch on three takeaway points in this KyScout feature.

Experience Takes A Hit: The most obvious side effect of Wiltjer's departure is the loss of UK's most experienced player. He had played in 73 games the last two seasons and had big-game experience as a key reserve during the Wildcats' run to the 2012 national championship. The drastically-different endings to the last two seasons may have given him valuable perspective to be shared with UK's latest No. 1 recruiting class, a small Army of newcomers who will be seeking a leader. What's it like to go into Gainesville, Fla., for a game? Why should a trip to Oxford, Miss., or Columbia, S.C., never be taken for granted?

To whom does that responsibility fall now? One candidate is senior swingman Jon Hood, who will be entering his fifth year in the program, although it's uncertain what his minutes will look like with the depth of talent on this roster. It's difficult to lead without the playing time to back it up, but Hood seemed to earn Calipari's trust late last season when he was seeking consistent effort from the struggling Cats. Either way, he's a guy who's been with Calipari since the beginning and can pass along what the UK boss expects from his guys on a daily basis in practice. Sophomore center Willie Cauley-Stein is another candidate, although it's not a role that come to him naturally.

If you asked Calipari, he would probably prefer it come from his point guard, the centerpiece of almost all his teams. Can freshman Andrew Harrison command that kind of respect from his teammates from the get-go? We shall see.

Perimeter Shooting Question: During Monday's SEC coaches summer teleconference, Calipari predicted his new team would be more like his first team at UK (John Wall & Co.) than the celebrated bunch (Anthony Davis & Co.) who cut down the nets in New Orleans. His rationale was the title team operated at a high level of execution that probably won't be duplicated by this year's team, but these newcomers may be able to impose their will on more teams due to their overall athleticism and physicality.

Which begs the question: Will this team have the same weakness that felled Wall's team? Will an off-shooting night be its Achilles Heel? That team arguably should have cut down the nets, but got coaxed into taking 32 shots from 3-point range – making just four – in a nightmarish 73-66 loss to West Virginia in the regional final at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

Wiltjer would have provided a bit of insurance against that. Kentucky will still have a few gifted shooters in Aaron Harrison, James Young, Dominique Hawkins and perhaps an improved Poythress, but none of them are the type of sharpshooter that Wiltjer can be. The Cats may have to make up for his loss by committee.

"Kentucky's Not For Everyone": Since the day he arrived in Lexington, Calipari has warned prospects that UK may not be the right place for their talents, even if they are regarded as one of the best high school players in the country. It could be argued that Wiltjer, a former McDonald's All-American and one of the best players on the West Coast in the Class of 2011, was never an ideal fit for the Wildcats.

Wiltjer's verbal commitment to UK reportedly came as a bit of a surprise to the staff, who thought he would likely pick one of the other schools on list that better suited his style of play. But they were happy to land his commitment and excited about his potential and versatility, even though his wiry frame and lack of athleticism didn't match the typical profile of a Calipari recruit.

That was never more evident than in the game at Vanderbilt last season in which Wiltjer was repeatedly isolated by the Commodores on the defensive end of the floor for one easy basket after another. Many thought that game (and Coach Cal's harsh comments in the aftermath) might ultimately persuade him to seek a new college home. In the long run, it may have. It may also lead to Calipari being a bit more selective moving forward.


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