By now we all know of the unexpected announcement of Kyle Wiltjer’s intent to transfer. His time in the Bluegrass was short-lived by all expectations of his being a four-year player. However, no one can blame him for seeking new and greater opportunities elsewhere. He has exceptional skill, but unfortunately due to the influx of talent, would likely have been buried behind the enormous depth of this year’s roster.
So what might happen to Wiltjer if he does decide to leave? Hopefully he betters his game and makes the league. He wouldn’t be the first player who chose to leave Kentucky for a new adventure, and he won’t be the last. Who are those other players? What would become of some other notable names that transferred? How many would go on to make the NBA?
In total, 95 players have left the program over the last 101 years; Wiltjer would be the 96th if he does choose to make the move. Rather than list off every player, allow me to list of some of the notable transfers, including the 14 who made it to the NBA.
1912 — Brandy Brandstetner (Occidental College)
Brandstetner was the first ever UK basketball player to leave the program, before Kentucky was ever “Kentucky” and the Wildcats moniker had ever been established. He played during a time where the faculty athletic senate had actually voted to abolish the men’s basketball team due to a poor record in its first five years.
1942 — Adrian Back (Navy)
1943 — Bill Hamm (New Mexico State A&M)
1943 — Clyde Parker (Louisville)
1944 — Truett DeMoisey (Ohio State)
1944 — Glen Parker (Louisville)
1944 — Don Whitehead (Bowling Green)
This group of players – along with many others – had to answer the call into the military just at the height of World War II. It is likely after serving, their spot on the roster at Kentucky was filled, or they no longer had the desire to play ball anymore. For whatever reason, these players left the program and went their separate ways. Salute.
1946 — Deward Compton (Louisville)
This 6’5 center from Murfreesboro, Tenn. left Lexington for Louisville after playing in just ten games for the Wildcats in his first two seasons. He was drafted in 1948 by the Philadelphia 76ers, becoming the first player to make the NBA after transferring out of Kentucky.
1947 — Bob Brannum (Michigan State)
A 1943 consensus All-American, All-SEC First Team member, and All-SEC Tournament player, Brannum was a key player for Adolph Rupp before his career shifted to MSU. He debuted for the Sheboygan Redskins in 1949 before being sold to the Boston Celtics where he played for four seasons.
1947 — Malcolm McMullen (Xavier)
McMullen played at Kentucky for two seasons, averaging 1.1 points in 21 games. He transferred to Xavier, near his hometown of Hamilton, Ohio. He was drafted in 1949 by the Indianapolis Olympians where he played for two seasons.
1949 — Joe Hall (Sewanee)
A true Kentucky legend, but not because of his playing days… The future Kentucky head coach played only three games as a Wildcat, never cracking the scoring column. He would finish his playing career at Sewanee but as a coach, would take over for Rupp in 1972. He coached for 13 successful seasons, winning a title in 1978.
1952 — Cliff Dwyer (Chipola Junior College)
A native of Cincinnati, Dwyer appeared in just one game for Kentucky before transferring to Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla. He would eventually wind up at North Carolina State and be drafted in 1955 by the Syracuse Nationals.
1952 — Dan Swartz (Morehead)
Straight out of Bath County, Kentucky, Swartz played in seven games as a Wildcat. He transferred to Morehead State and was drafted in the 4th round by the Boston Celtics in 1956.
1969 — Greg Starrick (Southern Illinois)
Also a star in baseball, Starrick was a multi-sport athlete in the Bluegrass before he ended his basketball career at Kentucky with 37 total points in seven games. He transferred to Southern Illinois, near his home town of Marion, Ill. He was drafted in 1972 in the 9th round by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
1979 — Chuck Aleksinas (Connecticut)
The 6’10 Aleksinas appeared in 41 games in two seasons at Kentucky, notching 248 career points, and shooting an impressive 50 percent from the field. He would transfer back to his home state at the University of Connecticut to finish his career, and would go on to be selected in the 1982 NBA Draft in the 4th round by the Chicago Bulls.
1980 — Dwight Anderson (Southern California)
“The Blur” as he was called, came to Kentucky as a McDonalds All-American, a Scholastic Coach All-American, and a Parade All-American. He played two seasons at Kentucky, scoring 505 points in 40 games, but he would leave the Bluegrass halfway through his Sophomore year for USC. He was drafted in 1982 by the Washington Bullets in the 2nd round with the 41st overall pick.
1983 — Todd May (Wake Forest)
Mr. Basketball in the state of Kentucky in 1982, May played in just four games as a Wildcat before moving on to Wake Forest during his freshman season. He was drafted in the 1987 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs in the 4th round.
1987 — Irving Thomas (Florida State)
Thomas came to Kentucky out of Miami, Fla. As a McDonalds All-American, among other prep awards. He played for two seasons in Lexington before transferring to Florida State to finish his collegiate career. He made his professional debut in 1990 for the Los Angeles Lakers, but only played one season in the NBA.
1989 — LeRon Ellis (Syracuse)
A Gatorade Player of the Year in California and a Parade All-American, Elis played for two seasons at Kentucky, earning Second Team All-SEC his Sophomore year. He finished his college eligibility at Syracuse and was drafted in the 1st round of the 1991 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers, going 22nd overall.
1989 — Chris Mills (Arizona)
Mr. Basketball in the state of California in 1987 and 1988, Gatorade Player of the Year, McDonalds All-American, USA Today All-American, Parade All-American, Mills came to Kentucky as a true elite West Coast baller. He would stay only one year, heading back out west for Arizona. He would be drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1993 with the 22nd overall pick.
1995 — Rodrick Rhodes (Southern California)
An All-SEC Freshman team member and Third Team All-SEC in 1993, and Second Team All-SEC in 1994, Rhodes rode a wave of success from high school in New Jersey to Kentucky He would play three seasons for the Wildcats, amassing 1,209 points in 99 games before transferring to USC in 1995. He would go on to be drafted in 1997 in the 1st round, 24th overall, by the Houston Rockets.
2000 — Michael Bradley (Villanova)
Bradley was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Massachusetts in 1997 before coming to Kentucky, where he played for two seasons. He appeared in 69 total games, chalking up 442 points. He transferred to Villanova, about 270 miles from his hometown of Worcester, Mass. From there he would be drafted in the 1st round with the 17th pick by the Toronto Raptors.
Following Bradley’s leave have been 25 other former Wildcats, including Marvin Stone, Shagari Alleyne, Derrick Jasper, Alex Legion, Kevin Galloway, Matthew Pilgrim, Darnell Dodson, and most recently Ryan Harrow.
This post is not designed to discourage Wiltjer from moving on to greener pastures. This list of former Cats demonstrates that role players and star players alike have come to Kentucky, realized it’s not the place for them, and still succeeded elsewhere. Hopefully Wiltjer can find what he is looking for at a new school, and be added here once finds a new home and makes his way into the NBA.
[Thanks to Big Blue History for making this post possible]