Kyle Wiltjer showed that it isn’t all about winning when he transferred to Gonzaga after winning a championship with Kentucky.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Wiltjer Transferred After His Freshman Year
After spending his first two seasons — and winning a championship — with Kentucky, Wiltjer transferred to Gonzaga. In his second season at Kentucky, he was named Sixth Man of the Year in the SEC.
Being on such a stacked team of future NBAers, Wiltjer got little playing time with Kentucky, which is what prompted the move, according to Sports Illustrated.
The payoff for Wiltjer, a junior forward, has been that he has become a far more athletic, multi-dimensional player than he was at Kentucky, where he was little more than a stationary long-range shooter. His transformation has helped the Zags, 32-2 and likely headed for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, become one of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation.
Now, Wiltjer faces the possibility of facing Kentucky while trying to help Gonzaga win a championship. But he isn’t focused on that.
I haven’t thought much about eventually playing Kentucky. Something like that is too far in the future to focus on.
2. Wiltjer Spent His Redshirt Season Improving His Athleticism
Since his first year — spent as a redshirt — with Gonzaga meant even less playing time for Wiltjer, he used the time to focus on improving his athleticism. According to the same Sports Illustrated article, Wiltjer worked out with his team and on his own.
There were strength and conditioning workouts in the morning that included drills like having a trainer fire 20-pound medicine balls at his chest while the 6’10” Wiltjer kept his hands at his sides, absorbing the blows and then catching the ball after it bounced off his body, in order to toughen him up for battles under the basket. Then there was practice with his teammates, often followed by another hour or more of work in the weight room.
3. Wiltjer Scored More Than Half of Gonzaga’s Points One Game
In a February 19 matchup against Pacific, Wiltjer score more than half of Gonzaga’s points — 45 of 86. This number was, obviously, a career high.
In the game, he went 15-for-22 from the floor and 7-for-10 from beyond the arc.
4. Wiltjer Has Career Highs in Almost Every Category This Season
Wiltjer’s numbers have definitely improved with his move, with everything but his three-point attempts and free-throw percentage at a career high.
This season, he’s scoring 16.7 points per game and has a 47.9 field-goal percentage and 79.9 free-throw percentage.
5. Wiltjer’s Father Called Kentucky His ‘First Girlfiend’
When Wiltjer left Kentucky, his father, Greg, said it was like leaving his first girlfriend, according to CBS Sports.
Leaving Kentucky is like leaving your first girlfriend. You’re in love. They treat you well. You’re a rock star. There are a lot of cool things about Kentucky.