Finally through with the "week from Hell," your humble correspondent at last has enough unallocated time to discuss some of the more important happenings of the week, and nothing is more important than the decision by Kyle Wiltjer to transfer from Kentucky to Gonzaga.
As we mentioned upon first hearing that Wiltjer was considering transferring, these things almost always go according to Hoyle, and we wrote that Wiltjer was effectively gone despite the protestations of a few of the Big Blue Faithful that he still was making up his mind. Whether this was ever actually the case or not, it gave some a bit of cause for hope, false though it may have been.
I don't think this was really a close call unless one, in the words of the song, allows the heart to rule the mind. Everyone loves being a part of Kentucky basketball and playing for Coach Cal. Some are destined to be enshrined in the pantheon of the new gods of Kentucky -- players like Anthony Davis, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Patrick Patterson and Brandon Knight. Others find that Kentucky is just too tough a mountain to climb, as players like Ryan Harrow, Stacey Poole and now Kyle Wiltjer can attest.
When a player comes to Kentucky, he must realize straight off the bat that he will be "recruited over" from day one. You may be all-everything at your high school, and the scouts may think you are the second coming of LeBron James, but at Kentucky, you are just a young man with an opportunity to succeed. Opportunity is what John Calipari and Co. sell here in the Bluegrass State, and they have delivered on that promise in spades, sending no less than 17 players to the NBA in three full years. That number will doubtless surpass 20 after the 2013-14 campaign.
But opportunity comes at a cost. Every year, Calipari is recruiting the next big thing, the next kid who will take your place. You either get better and leave, or get better and stay, but if you don't get better fast, you will see playing time decline. That is the curse of Kentucky's promise of opportunity — improve and stay, improve and move on, or fail to improve and be left behind.
Kyle Wiltjer improved, but his foe was beyond him. He decided, quite rationally, that Gonzaga provided a better opportunity for him. That says almost as much about his personality as anything else, because instead of challenging the Balrog of Morgoth, he chose to wait out the winter and take the pass of Caradhras.
This is Gonzaga:
This is Kentucky:
Rational? Yes. But for those who are destined to play at the highest level, they must defeat the greatest challenge. I would argue that isn't the path Wiltjer chose, but then, it most certainly isn't for everyone.
I wish Kyle all the luck and success in the world. It's up to him to make those wishes come true.