Should Kyle Wiltjer stay or should he go?

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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

Cue the obligatory Clash guitar riff ad we still wonder whether Kyle Wiltjer will stay or go from the Kentucky Wildcats. I personally think that he is gone, but it is a little bit weird that he released his “Dear John” letter to the BBN without having a destination planned. In it, he seemed to indicate he was torn about staying or leaving … but leaning towards leaving.

John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader recently opined on the situation and he said that there are good reasons for Wiltjer to stay and better ones for him to leave.

 

So, you ask, why doesn’t Wiltjer just redshirt at Kentucky? He’s already here. He’s comfortable, does well in school. Plus, there’s a historic precedent with glowing results.

After averaging less than six points on Rick Pitino’s title team of 1995-96, Jeff Sheppard redshirted the next year then helped Tubby Smith’s 1997-98 team hoist another national championship banner, married ex-UK women’s star Stacey Reed and lived happily ever after — or something like that.

Times have changed, however. Transferring is as popular as Instagram. John Calipari is now the UK coach and no one recruits better than John Calipari.

Even if Wiltjer stays and makes himself a much better player in 2013-14, there remains the distinct possibility Calipari will bring in an even better player for 2014-15.

Then Wiltjer is stuck in the same spot, or if he then elects to transfer, he loses a year of eligibility.

What does UK lose if Wiltjer continues on his way? The Cats lose a good shooter, but upon further review, I doubt they will miss the experience and leadership some fear.

 

I know that a lot of people are bringing up Jeff Sheppard and saying Wiltjer should stay, but there really is no guarantee that it would work out like it did for Sheppard.  And to be honest,  Sheppard did not have much of a NBA career and if Wiltjer wants the NBA career, starting on another team could be the answer.  Of course, Calipari is the best coach to get you to the NBA.  It’s a real Catch-22 and I wish Kyle the best of luck.

 

Feb 23, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) passes the ball against the Missouri Tigers in the first half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated Missouri 90-83. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, we probably should not be that surprised by the Wiltjer situation. The signs have been here for a while and Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News reminds that John Calipari said that Wiltjer’s body has to change back in May. So apparently this has been brewing for a while. DeCourcy offered up one of the most honest assessments of the situation and in the end, seems to think that Wiltjer would be best served spending the next year as a body builder and transforming himself.

 

As Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk showed in progressing from talented young reserve to All-American veteran, there can be considerable value in taking a full year during college to work on physical and skill development as Wiltjer is likely to do after transferring. Football programs do this routinely with even the most promising prospects, but it’s a far less established practice in basketball.

Players in basketball occasionally have benefitted from a year of development after transferring, but even that practice is diminishing as the NCAA more freely grants waivers to compete immediately, occasionally for dubious reasons.

It is true Wiltjer could have taken a year off at Kentucky knowing that Randle will not be around in 2013-14, redshirting for the sake of “changing” his body and emerging as a dramatically improved power forward a year down the road.

However, it’s also possible Marcus Lee will continue his rapid ascent and be difficult to beat out in October 2014, or that Calipari will do again what Calipari always does, which is to land another loaded crop of recruits who will make it nearly impossible for even an enhanced Wiltjer to find himself again playing regular minutes.

 

I think that DeCourcy’s assessment is pretty much dead on.  The article is a great read, so check it out.

 

February 12, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Nerlens Noel (3) against the Florida Gators during the first half at the Stephen C. O

As of now, all the pundits seem to be coming around and saying that Nerlens Noel will be the top pick in tomorrow nights NBA Draft. And it certainly feels as if Cleveland will be the destination for Nerlens, although I still hold out hope he will fall to Orlando. In the end though, Noel is a pretty balanced kid and knows it will not be the end of the world if he is not the number one pick.

 

“It definitely won’t be the end of the world,” Noel said of not being the top overall pick. “I mean, look at the past. Look at how many great players haven’t gone No. 1 and see what they’ve done with their careers. You can still become an All-Star and be successful. I mean, look at Carlos Boozer. He was a second-round pick. I mean, when you look at guys who went No. 2, you have Kevin Durant and a lot of other successful guys. If that happens, I’m just going to stay focused and use it as more motivation. I’m still going to be the player that I want to be. It’s all about your attitude and approach.”

 

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