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Kyle Wiltjer is starting to emerge.

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If you compare the tape from the beginning of the year versus the tape from Kentucky’s 57-44 win over Georgia you will see a completely different Kyle Wiltjer. The freshman from Portland, Oregon has undoubtedly improved his game. He’s not afraid to make mistakes, he’s more dependable defensively, and more assertive shooting the three. For this team to reach its ultimate goal of winning a national championship, Wiltjer has to consistently give the Wildcats quality minutes off of the bench. If the Georgia game was any indication of the type of effort he’s going to give, he’s ready to contribute for the long haul.

Here’s the most telling stat in Wiltjer’s development over the last couple of games: he made two of his three three-point attempts last night; he’s three-of-six from three over the last two games, and six-of-12 over his last four games. Compare this with the fact that Wiltjer only took 15 threes in his first ten games and you will see a player gaining confidence and becoming more comfortable in his role. Sometime fans forget that when Coach Calipari receives these highly-regarded recruits, the players are coming from a high school system in which they are the number one offensive option. It takes some time to learn how to play with other good players, which could explain the early struggles of Wiltjer, as well as Marquis Teague.

After this season most of the players on the current roster will head to the NBA and Wiltjer will have a bigger responsibility on next year’s team. Making up for the amount of scoring leaving will be the biggest responsibility. Wiltjer can be an outstanding collegiate player; a big man with shooting capability will always be a nightmare for defenses. Among a new class of freshman and an entirely new team dynamic, he will provide stability and familiarity like Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb did for the current team. He can eventually be a three-point specialist of sorts, even in the NBA. Think Luke Babbitt of Nevada as far as collegiate production and NBA draft position with a better professional career.

A confident and contributing Kyle Wiltjer is something that Kentucky fans weren’t expecting to see heading to the end of SEC play, but that’s what we have, and it should be cause for some excitement now, and for the future. Credit to Wiltjer for responding to criticism and starting to be the guy we thought he could be. The Wildcats are hitting on all cylinders in my eyes because they find a way to win tough games in crunch time. All championship teams have to do prove they can win every type of game because you will see every type of game in the NCAA tournament. We saw how effective Miller and Wiltjer can be off the bench last night. We knew the former SEC tournament MVP could do it, but now Wiltjer is starting to emerge too. This could get scary.

Article written by Rashawn Franklin

25 Comments for Kyle Wiltjer is starting to emerge.

  1. DB11
    8:04 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    I once saw him at canes. It was awesome

  2. Rod Strickland
    8:05 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    Whatchu talking bout Willis?!

    8:21 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    He’s not a one-and-done. Which Cal knew when he recruited him. Cal will have 4 year guys, but they will be studs. In Cal I trust!

  4. ktmiln2
    8:35 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    You have to love 6 points in 8 minutes. We need a spark off of the bench like that

  5. Maxwell
    8:48 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    Everytime I see him hit a three, I get all giggly inside. I can’t help it.

  6. Brandon Roy
    8:51 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    Luke Babbitt has the worst haircut on the Blazers.

  7. BigBlueSkyDog
    9:03 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    For the first time this year, Wiltjer didn’t look lost on defense. He looked like he knew where he was supposed to be, rotated well when he needed to, and even got a block. I think we’ll have a nice seven man rotation going into March.

  8. Dane Brammage
    9:06 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    Rashawn, I don’t buy your argument.

    These CATS played more than H.S.

    They played AAU – with the best.

  9. Holler Baller
    9:15 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    Cal needs to get the punching bag out to get him mean. It worked wonders for Jorts last year.

  10. Negative Nancy
    9:15 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    Wiltjer and Miller should start and with the way Jones and Lamb are playing they should come off the bench.

  11. BLY 4EVA
    9:16 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    3 YEARS!!!!

  12. Genoscats
    9:24 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink


  13. Sethicus98123
    9:38 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    Its idiotic and presumptious to think wiltjer cant and wont go pro. Orton was drafted in the first round and wasnt as good a kyle is now. If we get to where we wanna go all top 7 are gone. Thats the nature of the beast. If we win the national title it was worth it though. But to assume that wiltjer wont go pro is not fair to wiltjer and just sets up yourself and big blue nation for dissapointment and anger directed at wiltjer.

  14. snl1960
    9:56 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    Georgia player bump him again……. might open up a can o whoop ass. if looks could kill.

  15. Eloy the Destroyer
    10:04 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    Kyle Wiltjer is gangsta!!

  16. rnet
    10:15 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    I have to admit Wilt is my favorite player on the team. Every time he shoots a 3 I feel like its going in. He reminds me of a Duke player that bucked th trend and came to UK. For real though you have to feel good about Wiltjer’s future at UK.

  17. RH
    11:02 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    Wiltjer needs more playing time. I’d much rather have him in the game with Jones on the bench to stretch the D and open things up for Davis and MKG.

  18. mcmermaid
    11:31 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    Kyle won the State basketball championship 3 years in a row. Now he may follow that up with a National Championship. Kyle is in WINNER. It is not just talent that wins championships. It is the ability of teammates to communicate and work together. Kyle has shown he has the winning ingredients.

  19. dustin
    11:46 pm January 25, 2012 Permalink

    So you’re saying Wiltjer could be a new and improved Pittsnogle?

  20. Poole's Daddy Says NO
    12:09 am January 26, 2012 Permalink

    Terrible reference to Luke Babbit. Luke is an athlete that can shoot. Wiltjer couldn’t jump over a phonebook. A better comparison is maybe a Matt Bonner type player. Wiltjer will probably never rebound or play defense at a high level. But gotta love the HOOK

  21. sumpin sumpin
    8:16 am January 26, 2012 Permalink

    He’s brimming with confidence! Look, he’s almost making 3 goggles!

  22. minton
    9:41 am January 26, 2012 Permalink

    I think if he hits the gym hard as hell he will drastically improve before next year. Only thing he’s missing is speed and agression which comes with strength.

  23. MustangCat
    11:26 am January 26, 2012 Permalink

    Listen, all 4 of our freshmen are what you call “mental-fortitude” type guys. Which means they are very strong-minded. Which means they play through the slumps, not slump through the slumps. Shout out to TJones! Better late then never. Wiltjer, in my opinion, may be better then MKG in this respect! Davis and Teague are still hesitant to shot their weak shots right now. MKG isn’t. Wiltjer has never flinched yet. He KNOWS he can shoot that rock, and he never hesitates to put it up. Good sign for the tourney. Davis and Teague need to get past their mind, where their bad shots are concerned. If they do, we may be seriously pressed in taking down #8!!

  24. MustangCat
    11:28 am January 26, 2012 Permalink

    May “not” be seriously pressed! Sorry.

  25. Sully
    12:52 pm January 26, 2012 Permalink

    I like Kyle’s game, and know he can shoot the three, but wish the staff would allow him to participate in the offense closer to the basket. My guess is he has an outstanding mid-range game, and we know he can shoot the hook and has nice moves around the basket. Getting him some low isolations and compartively easy baskets would make him even more confident and dangerous.