Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Kyle Wiltjer Gives Samford the Hook

A lot of folks were critical of Kyle Wiltjer's play last night against the Samford Bulldogs, and with some justification. Kyle struggled to contain his man somewhat on defense, and was just too tentative on offense.

Of course, there was this:

Obviously, we'd like to see a little more of this type of thing out of Wiltjer. He has the talent, he has the touch, and he has all kinds of skill. He's not really slow afoot for his size, although he looks that way when compared to some of his teammates.

Since we're on the subject of Wiltjer, let's take a little look at what he's done so far this year.

Similar to what I have been doing for post-game boxes, here are Kyle's season stats so far:

Kyle Wiltjer's Game Stats
Date Game Min Pts FG FG% FT FT% 3PT 3PT% OR DR Reb Ast Stl Blk TO PF
2011-11-11 MARIST 58, UK 108 19 14 7-12 58.3 0-0
0-2 0.0 1 3 4 1 0 2 1 2
2011-11-15 UK 75, KU 65 3 0 0-0
0-0
0-0
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
2011-11-19 PSU 47, UK 85 28 19 6-12 50.0 5-6 83.3 2-5 40.0 1 1 2 3 0 0 1 3
2011-11-20 ODU 52, UK 62 11 3 1-4 25.0 0-1 0.0 1-2 50.0 2 3 5 0 0 2 2 1
2011-11-23 RAD 40, UK 88 22 9 3-8 37.5 2-2 100.0 1-2 50.0 5 3 8 2 2 2 3 1
2011-11-26 PORT 63, UK 87 15 2 1-4 25.0 0-0
0-2 0.0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 2
2011-12-01 SJU 59, UK 81 12 2 1-5 20.0 0-0
0-2 0.0 0 3 3 0 0 1 0 1
2011-12-03 UNC 72, UK 73 5 2 1-1 100.0 0-0
0-0
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2011-12-10 UK 72, IU 73 7 0 0-0
0-0
0-0
0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1
2011-12-17 UTC 62, UK 87 23 9 3-7 42.9 0-0
3-7 42.9 1 2 3 0 0 0 1 3
2011-12-20 SAM 50, UK 82 22 5 2-7 28.6 0-0
1-4 25.0 1 3 4 0 0 0 1 3

To me, this just screams "Freshman!", but there are some things that deserve discussion. First off, on the good side, Wiltjer has never turned the ball over more than 3 times in any one game no matter how many minutes he played. Wiltjer does not hurt you by dribbling into traffic or trying to defeat a quicker player off the bounce. He takes care of the ball and defers to his more experienced teammates.

That's both a good thing and a bad thing, of course -- I think most of us would argue he defers a little too much, but his personality seems to be one of "team first." What he has yet to figure out is that sometimes it's best for your team if you look to score a little more.

Another thing that stands out, but I didn't highlight it above, is the lack of assists lately. That's another reason Wiljer isn't turning it over, he is making very simple, very short passes, and from his position, those rarely result in an assist. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since Wiljer isn't really the type of player who can disadvantage a defense off the dribble, and assists aren't really something a power forward should be getting a lot of -- for example, Anthony Davis averages even fewer assists per 40 minutes than Wiltjer does.

A worrying sign is Wiltjer's lack of rebounding. As a four, you want to see him corral at least 9 rebounds/40 minutes, which is around where Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is. He doesn't necessarily need to be at 14 like Davis or even 11 like Jones, but 7 is too few for his position.

Another problem I see is his shot selection. Too often he passes up shots on the perimeter he should take, and takes shots he should pass up. That's just a learning curve, really. But he also tends to hang too much on the perimeter -- Wiltjer can do real damage inside, as we saw above. He just needs to get in there and demand the ball more, or back players down to get in range of that hook.

Overall, Wiltjer is doing fine, he just needs to be a little more aggressive. That's the hardest thing to teach players that lack an aggressive attitude, and I would argue that even as a senior, it is mostly lacking in Darius Miller. In fact, Wiltjer reminds me a lot of Miller in many ways. He needs to learn to use his body, and his skilled hands and feet, in ways other than shooting three point shots.

I'm sure he'll get it. It just takes a little time.

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