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Calipari and Wiltjer: In the end, it just wasn’t a fit…

We’ve all had moments or times in our lives when we’ve desperately wanted something to fit or to work out. We have probably even gone to great measures to attempt to make something work, maybe even giving it more time and attention than it even warranted. Whether it be a relationship that isn’t good for either party, but you just can’t quite let go of, even though you know in the end it simply won’t work out. Or maybe it’s an old beloved car that has seen a couple thousand more miles than it should have… the one you drive into the ground, even though it may not quite be safe. Or may be it’s a dress, or an old pair of jeans that no longer fits, but you keep just in case you happen to drop back down to your senior year of high school wait. Whatever it is, we’ve all had something like that. We’ve all experienced that kind of want for something to work, even when the writing seems to already be on the wall that it just won’t.

In a lot of ways, that describes Kyle Wiltjer and John Calipari. Despite the best of intentions by both sides, in the end, the pair just wasn’t a fit.

John Calipari is a good basketball coach, and that might be understating it a bit. The proof is in the numbers, the victories, the players he has put in the NBA and especially wrapped up in that national championship banner that now hangs in Rupp Arena, the one he helped bring back to the Bluegrass. John Calipari is a good basketball coach, and he has made it work for a lot of players at a variety of different programs.

Kyle Wiltjer is a good basketball player. Players don’t just get 5-stars tagged next to their name coming out high school because of one good game here and there. Scouts line small gyms across the country, living and breathing the AAU circuit– identifying and rating talent. Sure, sometimes they miss. But Kyle Wiltjer wasn’t a “miss.” Wiltjer’s athleticism never leapt off the page, but his skill set was unique and worthy of making him a coveted prospect coming out of high school. Wiltjer showcased the depth of his offensive abilities at times last year for Kentucky, and has proven himself to be a go-to weapon when playing in an offense more suited for his game (just look at his numbers for the Canadian national team this summer). Kyle Wiltjer is a good basketball player, and he has made it work in a variety of settings.

John Calipari is a good basketball coach and Kyle Wiltjer is a good basketball player. The two simply can’t be at their very best though together.

When Kyle Wiltjer chose Kentucky, he was choosing to bend a bit to try to fit a mold that was not necessarily cut out for him. Wiltjer was not a stereotypical Calipari basketball recruit. Calipari often recruits size and athleticism, preferring a player who can go 1 on 1 and beat his man on a consistent basis. Wiltjer knew that wasn’t his strength, but he wanted the challenge of playing with and against the best basketball players in the country day in and day out. He said as much when he picked Kentucky without even visiting the campus. When John Calipari recruited and accepted Kyle Wiltjer on his basketball team, he was also choosing to bend a bit to try to mold his team in a slightly different way to compensate and fit a player like Wiltjer. Calipari saw Wiltjer as a unique type of shooter and offensive weapon who could perhaps benefit from open looks created by the more dynamic players on the court driving into the lane. Wiltjer could be the guy to trail on the fast breaks and his wide open threes. And of course, we all remember the highly-talked about “hook shot” that Wiltjer was bringing with him to Kentucky.

Both parties were willing to bend a bit in order to make it work. Both parties were willing to step out of the box a little bit to try to merge and create mutual success. Both parties took a chance, and as with any chance– sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. For two years, Wiltjer and Calipari gave it a shot. There was no bad blood. There were no discipline issues. The major rifts between player and coach or player and program that you often see in the wake of a transfer weren’t apparent. In the end, it came down to two parties who genuinely tried to make a fit when a fit simply wasn’t meant to be made. Either Wiltjer was going to have to compromise or Calipari was going to have to compromise, and either way… neither Wiltjer or Calipari was going to be able to be the best possible versions of themselves. We saw it play out all last season. If the offense was going to revolve around Wiltjer, it wasn’t going to fit the style of play for the rest of Calipari’s team. Calipari’s teams are known for aggressive and overwhelming defense. That wasn’t going to happen with Wiltjer.

Again, I say this with honest sincerity– I think both Wiltjer and Calipari wanted to make things work. Kyle Wiltjer by all accounts loved everything about playing at the University of Kentucky. And by all accounts, John Calipari genuinely liked the kid. The pairing just wasn’t meant to be.

I think Kyle Wiltjer has a chance to really succeed at Gonzaga. Wiltjer will have a chance to be perhaps the most offensively productive version of himself there. Will he make it to the NBA? Maybe. Maybe not. Gonzaga and Wiltjer will have to do a lot less adjusting and bending to make it work though.

John Calipari will continue to succeed at Kentucky. Just look at this year’s roster. Wiltjer may have had a chance to be a big contributor as a senior, but Calipari’s team will not have to make as many adjustments to accommodate for a player not as athletically inclined and quick on defense as Wiltjer. Calipari has said for years now, “we can’t hide you here” at Kentucky. He had to find ways to hide Wiltjer at times. He will no longer have to do that.

Even with the best of intentions, in the end… it just wasn’t a fit.

Article written by Ally Tucker

I once successfully requested "The Wobble" to be played 6 times at one wedding.

47 Comments for Calipari and Wiltjer: In the end, it just wasn’t a fit…

  1. Ridge Runner
    3:53 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    My feelings exactly but better explained…

  2. niaps
    3:56 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I think it wasn’t a fit. Gee how many times did he have to say that?

  3. Travis Tritt
    3:57 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    It was always with the best of intentions.

  4. T.J.
    3:57 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Awww how cute, your last sentence was your title.

  5. RICK
    3:58 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I just don’t think Kyle was good enough to play with the good players KY had. I think its that simple and you are trying to read to much into it.

  6. Sky Robbie
    3:58 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Well written article. It was basically summed up with Cal statement, “we cant hide you here”. Believe that Kyle gave his heart and soul to the program, but in the end, just not the best fit like the article states.

    Best of luck to Kyle!

  7. STAHP
    4:04 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Who cares? Wiltjer’s gone. He wasn’t good enough. End of the story. Stop talking about him leaving. Next post about Kyle better have something to do with him moving forward instead of dwelling on him leaving. Jesus! Where’s all the pieces on Harrow transferring? How about Dodson? Just. Stop. Even with the best of intentions, in the end… this is dumb.

  8. boydcrowder
    4:08 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Saying 4,000 words when 40 would do.

  9. WeightForIt
    4:10 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    “senior year of high school wait”

    Proofreading is hard!

    4:14 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    that took too long and I didn’t even read 3/4 of it. Like 8 said, 40 words would have done just fine. Good job though!

  11. I'mSorryBut
    4:14 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    We failed Kyle, and the ever growing list of transfers under the Calipari era. We failed these kids.

  12. Ninth Grade English
    4:14 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I know this site tries to be “news brought in the most ridiculous manner possible.” However, you butchered the English language with this one. Wait instead of weight? Come on!

  13. the_narcissis
    4:15 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    high school wait or weight?

    4:16 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    I’ll admit, I only read the bold and that was informative enough!

  15. BBN
    4:18 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Can we bury the Kyle Wiltjer saga? I know KSR loves him, but goodnight lets knock hit the dead horse anymore. He is gone and did not want to work the way Cal wanted him to. We did not fail Kyle. He did not want to put in the work and energy that Cal requires out of his players. He did not want to change his game, which we all know did not fit a Cal system. He is gone, so let’s support the guys who work hard and are on the team now.

  16. classof68
    4:19 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Talk about Blather. Blah, blah, blah, Wiltjer didn’t fit. There, I just said what the poster said.

  17. bleaker
    4:20 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    We landed on the moon!

  18. Quickdraw
    4:20 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    He may go on and have a great career but I just keep remembering how opponents posted him up inside. He wasn’t quick enough to guard outside or strong to guard inside. Like Cal said “we can’t hide you here”

  19. OMG there is someone else out there!
    4:20 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    THANK YOU #12

  20. Downcline in proofreading
    4:23 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    What did we wait on in high school that made our jeans and dresses feel better?

  21. Bottom Line
    4:25 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Kid was not a one and done, so Cal could not help him. His roll it out there style of coaching was a bad fit. Kyle hasn’t been coached in three years. Transferring was a smart move.

  22. MRob
    4:25 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Dang, some of yall just love to bitch and moan about anything you can.

  23. hendoblue
    4:27 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    #12-I disagree. In the end I think Kyle maybe was his own worst enemy. You can have all the talent in the world, but you also have to be willing to work. I question how hard he worked, especially in the off-season. I remember him making a lot of cute little videos. It seems to me it would have been time better spent in the gym- especially the weight room. If he wants to be a great player, he will have to commit to the hard work. That is what separates the great ones from the wannabees. We will see what level his commitment is while he is sitting a year. I wish nothing but the best for him. His shooting stroke is a thing of beauty, no doubt.

  24. MRob
    4:27 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    #21 your an idiot. Doesn’t ul have a website.

  25. hendoblue
    4:28 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    i meant no. 11

  26. hendoblue
    4:30 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    24- well said!!!

  27. Stacey Poole
    4:31 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    21 is correct

  28. hendoblue
    4:36 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    27-see 24

  29. Papaw Brooks
    4:37 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Forget the one and done and talent arguments. Wiltjer committed to play for a coach that EVERYONE knows demands hardcore defense and doesn’t rely on a lot of zone. Wiltjer had gobs of talent, but the kid obviously doesn’t care enough about improving his game to WORK for it. He couldn’t play defense, couldn’t even barely stay in front of a 5 with his limited agility and footwork. I am so tired of these reminiscent posts. Yeah he had a few nice moments where he hit some threes his freshman year that broke some zones, but when the opportunity came, he never could play serious minutes and his defensive presence nullified his offensive contributions. If the kid cared at all about making it at the NBA level, he would’ve stayed at Kentucky and worked harder (see: Harrellson, Josh)on rebounding, his defensive footwork and his body. Instead, he goes to a school that covets what he is already good at and (hopefully) the kid will never see another final four. The offense will run through him and they will play walk & gun (can’t use run and gun with a straight face) and he will get bounced out of a few tourneys and will be the big fish in a small pond playing a bunch of nobody’s until March (where they will probably get another overinflated 1 or 2 seed). At best he becomes a late first round draft pick outside of the lottery and ends up being a taller version of Adam Morrison (who actually played better defense and had more heart) warming the bench for a couple of years in the NBA. If he would’ve stayed here and added defense to his repertoire, he could’ve been a dominant offensive force with some defensive skill to back it up. After all, it doesn’t matter if you can put up 13 points a game when your defense allows 20. I totally disagree with you Ally, it was a great fit, Kyle just didn’t have the work ethic or drive to give it his all… and he took the easy way out.

  30. Ryan Harrow
    4:43 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    That fat sob coach did nothing for me and I was a burger boy. The G State coach will get me to the NBA.

  31. Ryan Harrow
    4:46 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the lingerie section at Macy’s.

  32. UKBlue
    4:55 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    With Kyle going back & forth about transferring, he knew this wasn’t on Cal. A lot of this falls on Kyle for the mere fact that he never really worked on his body to get bigger or faster; it wasn’t Cal not coaching him. Kyle dad played ball & had taught fundamentals since he was a kid. I have no idea what Kyle was doing besides making videos & hanging with the hot girlfriend, but by looking at him, it sure wasn’t spending a lot of time in the gym. If Kyle is getting beat by European players, then that should tell you something. I hope the best for the kid, just wish he would have had a little more fire in the belly (aka MKG) to help himself.

  33. NotSatire
    5:00 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Remember Jorts. Unfortunately, the best time for Kyle to do a Jorts was last year, not this year. Best wishes to Kyle, but 29. is correct…change comes from you, not just changing your situation.

  34. I Say
    5:09 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    It wasn’t a fit It wasn’t a fit It wasn’t a fit It wasn’t a fit It wasn’t a fit It wasn’t a fit It wasn’t a fit….
    Every paragraph said the exact same thing…again, It just wasn’t a fir

  35. catcatcat
    5:50 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Kyle is a puss

  36. Kyle Wiltjer's arms
    6:05 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Just scroll up and look at me…Enough said.

  37. Stan
    6:20 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    From the blog: “just look at his numbers for the Canadian national team this summer).”

    In seven games, Kyle scored 2, 22, 0, 3, 11, 8, and 8. That’s a 7.7 point average. Not exactly lighting it up.

  38. Wildcatsteeler
    6:34 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Basically what he’s done is kill any chance of going to the NBA. He could have been a part of another title but is too afraid to battle it out with freshmen for minutes. Wilting is a better name for him. Good riddance turncoat.

  39. wow
    6:57 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Now if only some of the writers on here would realize they are not a good fit for KSR and move on….

  40. CatsInTheNBA
    7:29 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Why are there so many whiny bitches in the comments?

  41. goUKats`
    7:33 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Very nice article explaining the Wiltjer saga.
    But,please, no more.Let Kyle be an ancient memory,a guy who was here,but is gone.

  42. Larry
    8:08 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    What were his numbers this summer?

  43. G
    9:39 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    Excuses, excuses, excuses. That’s all this site is… a forum for excuses for anybody involved with UK basketball.

  44. bung
    10:00 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    trailing on what fast break…?

  45. lexslamman
    10:05 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    If brevity is the soul of wit, what does that make Ally?

  46. Kevin C.
    11:03 pm July 23, 2013 Permalink

    It wasn’t just Cal…Kyle wasn’t a fit for KENTUCKY BASKETBALL; not that he’s a bad kid, but he just didn’t have that fire. At the very least, he should have been the second coming of Scott Padgett…but even Padgett hustled on defense, dove on the floor, and got some rebounds. Kyle just wanted to do exactly what Mark Few will expect of him: to trail, and be ready for the spot-up 3. There is ZERO chance he “improves his body” playing for Gonzaga.

  47. Rupp's Ghost
    8:10 pm July 24, 2013 Permalink

    It was not Cal’s fault. Rock Oliver did not do his job properly.