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Kentucky Basketball: John Calipari Surprises Everyone, Lands Wiltjer

Kyle Wiltjer, a 2011 6' 9'' 225# forward from Portland, Oregon ranked #25 on Rivals and 21 on Scout, verbally committed to Kentucky last night.

Wiltjer had UK on his list, but there was relatively little buzz around the Big Blue Nation about him until this weekend.  Wiltjer is the kind of player any school would want -- a big, smart team player who can shoot.  There is speculation that Wiltjer has not finished growing yet, to boot.

The Wiltjer situation was all the Twitter rage yesterday, but he has long been considered a likely player for Gonzaga and Mark Few.  Needless to say, the Gonzaga faithful at SB Nation's excellent Gonzaga blog, The Slipper Still Fits, are very much less than pleased.

I notice a few members of A Sea of Blue over at TSSF defending Calipari's honor, and as one of the leading Calipari defenders on the Internet, I can hardly be surprised.  What is surprising is how many west coast players are suddenly bound for Kentucky.  Over the last ten years or so before Calipari came, we have gotten a few west coast guys, notably Tayshaun Prince, Chuck Hayes and Michael Porter, but the 2010-11 classes are simply stiff with players plucked from the hands of Great Northwest schools.  That's just unexpected, at least to me.

Needless to say, Fans of schools in the states of Washington and Oregon have been dismayed at the sudden movement of their talent to Lexington.  With Tony Wroten still out there uncommitted, there is at least a technical possibility of yet another highly-ranked Great Northwest recruit playing for the Blue and White.  That would be a staggeringly successful invasion of an under-appreciated and talent-rich region of America.

I suspect, but do no know, that the Wiltjer commitment had something to do with the recent offer Coach Cal made to Chane Behanan, another highly ranked player out of Kentucky.  Of course, that could merely be a coincidence.  But the message now seems to be that if you want on the Kentucky train, space is limited.

Let's see what we currently have lined up for 2011 so far:

Committed but unsigned
S/N Name Pos Location Ht Wt Rivals Rank
1 Anthony Davis PF Chicago, ILPerspectives Charter 6'10" 220 6
2 Mike Gilchrist SF Elizabeth, NJSt. Patrick 6'6" 190 3
3 Marquis Teague PG Indianapolis, INPike 6'2" 170 2
4 Kyle Wiltjer PF Portland, ORJesuit 6'9" 225 25

Not bad at all, if you ask me.  Adding Behenan to this list would make the class by far the best in 2011, and arguably the best recruiting class, rankings-wise, in Kentucky history.  For that matter, we may well already be there if these rankings continue to hold.

Here is some reaction to the Wiltjer commitment: