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Kentucky Basketball: Kyle Wiltjer Says Goodbye

Kyle Wiltjer has announced he plans to transfer from Kentucky. Did he see the writing on the wall?

I think you ought to stay, Kyle.
I think you ought to stay, Kyle.
Andy Lyons

Big Blue Nation,

I would like to take this moment to thank Coach Cal, the entire staff, my teammates and the BBN for a memorable two years thus far. Heading into college my dream was to win a National Championship and compete with and play against the best players in the country. Without a doubt, I accomplished both of these goals in my two years at Kentucky. Now as I head into my junior year, I recognize that my new and adjusted goals require me to make some very difficult upcoming decisions. Coach Cal has been everything I expected him to be, as I have felt very comfortable talking with him about my situation. I cannot stress enough how supportive Coach has been during this period. He is more than a coach to me, and for that I am forever grateful. During this next year, I will be working on my body so that I am able to compete the way I know I can. I want to find a situation that will help me do this as well as play a more significant role, wherever that may be. Even though I might physically leave Lexington, I will never forget the support and kindness that everyone has shown my family and me. It is difficult to put into words how hard it is to possibly leave BBN, yet I am confident that whatever I choose, I will give it my all. Regardless, I will always bleed blue and will never forget these amazing last two years at Kentucky.

Thank You,

Kyle Wiltjer -

written to the BBN from Kyle today

As I read this letter I had to ask myself, did Kyle see what was coming? Was his lack of a consistent defensive game the contributing factor? Wiltjer had to know that his defense was going to be a subject of contention with this year's squad coming in. Almost every recruit is a defender to a man. Was Kyle's shoot my way out of trouble approach just too much for Coach Cal to take for another year?

I have to believe that it was. Wiltjer had improved on defense, but not enough to keep a starting slot over the incoming freshmen unless they struggled to grasp the game coming in. Calipari stated early on with this group that the ability to use the bench as an assistant coach was going to be a big help, and everyone knows that Calipari will not tolerate players who are not defensive minded.

I believe that in the cases of Wiltjer and the early departing Archie Goodwin, the work needed to change their game to suit the Kentucky team concept was more than they were willing to take on with the risk of no playing time or injury possibly derailing their professional hopes before they could leave the bluegrass.

Calipari's response was typical Coach Cal:

I told Kyle I’ll play whatever part he wants in his transfer, whether that’s being involved and calling other schools on his behalf or not being involved in any way. He expressed to me that he needs my help and advice, which I will give. Whatever Kyle chooses – and I still hope he ends up back with us – I wish him and his family the best of luck.

All in all, I believe that Calipari wanted Kyle to stay badly, and he said so over at Coach He believed that Kyle was progressing, but not at the rate he was wanting him to. Kyle just could not be a consistent lockdown defender and at his position, that is a necessity. Wing players cannot allow faster players to go by on drives to the basket. The fact that some of Kyle's teammates were not great help defenders probably added to the difficulties that he had in playing the spot.

Wiltjer was a great kid. The kind of kid that the Big Blue Nation loved to get behind and see succeed. In the end, however, he wants playing time and that may be something that he was not going to get a lot of with the current class coming in. He wants the assurance of knowing he will start and play, and in the Calipari system, no one gets that.

Kyle, we will miss you. And in the end, I believe you are going to miss Kentucky, too.