Kyle Wiltjer never quite made it to the forefront of Kentucky basketball last year. Surrounded by a bevy of future superstars, Wiltjer was relegated to a mere trickle of minutes throughout the course of the season and never had his chance to shine. That will change this year thanks to a squad that lacks a true power forward and will require significant minutes from Wiltjer. He will get his playing time. The question is whether or not he’ll make the most of it. Rob Dauster of SI.com thinks so. In fact he suggests Wiltjer will be one of the nation’s breakout players.
Here’s what Dauster had to say about Wiltjer’s chances this year.
Wiltjer was the forgotten man in Kentucky’s 2011 recruiting class, likely because he, as “only” a consensus top 25 recruit, was the black sheep of John Calipari’s freshmen. Wiltjer also doesn’t exactly fit the mold of the typical Coach Cal recruit. He’s a baby-faced power forward whose athleticism is rivaled by some of the writers covering the Wildcats and whose forte is his ability to shoot the ball. He’s the epitome of a face-up four playing for a team that produces physical freaks like John Wall, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. His value lies in the fact that he may end up being far and away the best shooter on that UK roster next season. Think about how much room there will be to penetrate if an opponent’s four cannot leave Wiltjer and the center has to try to find a way to keep Nerlens Noel from receiving a lob.
It’s interesting that Dauster lists Wiljter as a breakout athlete, but then describes him as an accessory to a team full of breakout stars. The thing is, he’s probably right. Wiltjer just isn’t the type of player that breaks out and steals the show. He’s an extremely useful guy that will get big minutes just because he makes the team better and makes defenses cringe. Wiltjer will be lucky to average 8 points a game or more this year, but he’ll be contributing to Kentucky’s offense in a hugely substantial way that’s impossible to capture with numbers.
Kyle will be a breakout player to those who know basketball and understand his importance, but I don’t see him becoming a media darling receiving national attention. And that’s okay, because he plays for a program with fans that understand hoops, love their players dearly, and understand that breaking out can happen a variety of ways. All Wiltjer has to be is present to make his presence felt.
Filed Under: Basketball
About the Author: Corey Tincher is a lifelong Kentucky fan and professional writer who couldn't keep the two worlds apart. He is the lead contributor for StraitCats.com and literally wrote the book on the 2012 NCAA Tournament Championship run, Big Blue Articles: Kentucky Basketball in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Follow @Corey_Tincher on Twitter for more Kentucky news and discussion.