Many had speculated that Kyle Wiltjer might leave with the loaded incoming recruiting class cutting into the time he'd get to play next year, and John Calipari has publically intimated more than once that Kyle will need to get significantly stronger in order to be able to compete for time at Kentucky.
Apparently, Wiltjer decided that the situation at Kentucky was going to be too difficult, and I completely understand why he might make this decision. From what I know so far (which consists mainly of a few tweets and a report on WHAS), Wiltjer figures the year in residence required by the transfer rule would give him the year he needed to get stronger, and he'd still have two full years of eligibility left with the "five to play four" NCAA eligibility rule. He apparently also wants a larger role than the one he envisions for himself at Kentucky.
What I wonder is why he didn't consider a red-shirt year at Kentucky a la Jeff Sheppard. It is possible that Calipari wasn't willing to go that route, but I'd be pretty surprised if that were so. Perhaps we'll find out more when Wiltjer starts giving interviews to the innumerable outlets looking for one, but as of now, we really don't know what the full reasoning behind his decision was.
I find myself quite disappointed, actually, because I really liked Kyle and his game. He had issues with strength and footspeed, but any of these could have been addressed with time and a redshirt year. I'm quite certain everyone at UK supports him in every possible way, and I know that we here at A Sea of Blue all wish him the very, very best at wherever he decides to take his considerable talent.
As far as Kentucky is concerned, this loss is significant, but not in any way crippling or catastrophic. At best, Wiltjer would have been a role player next year, and if we are all honest with ourselves, it was likely to be a minor role in the vein of the 2012 campaign. That's just how deep and talented the Wildcats are for 2013.
Should this loss affect the expectations of a national championship for Kentucky? Well, I think not really. It does hit depth and shooting, but there is plenty of both on next year's roster. The part that really matters is experience, and that will probably be felt more in the early part of the season, especially in practices. Wiltjer would have been a junior with a championship ring on his finger, and players respect that. He could have been like a coach on the floor in practice, and there is no real way to measure the value of that.
Be that as it may, I am in no mood to revise my optimistic projections for next year. This is not an insignificant loss, but it is a loss that Kentucky can absorb without too much difficulty. It does make us slightly more vulnerable to injury, but Kentucky is fortunate to have a lot of depth in the front line. Otherwise, this could have been disastrous. I'm feeling particularly thankful forright about now, even if his skillset is vastly different.
I think we'll be fine, and I can't wait to get started.