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Plenty of Challenges Ahead for Wiltjer

Kyle Wiltjer proved to be a reliable source of three-point shooting off of the bench for the Cats in 2012. The freshman sharpshooter saw action in all of UK’s 40 games, averaging 5 ppg in 11.6 minutes per game. Wiltjer drained a total of 35 3-pointers in 85 attempts (43% from behind-the-arc), and in the NCAA tournament, he provided a spark off the bench with three-point shots in four consecutive wins over Iowa State, Indiana, Baylor, and Louisville.

In his sophomore season, Wiltjer will have a much more expanded role as the only returning player who logged significant minutes in the Cats’ National Championship run last spring. We know he can come into a game and knock down a three or two, but is he ready to play a critical role as possibly a starter? Wiltjer’s minutes are going to go way up this year and his three-point shooting will be relied upon much more heavily. Doron Lamb and Darius Miller by themselves combined for 132 three-point shots last season. It will not be an easy task for Wiltjer, transfer Julius Mays, and other incoming players to match that production from outside.

As typically the seventh man off of Kentucky’s bench in 2012, Wiltjer was not a focal point of UK’s offense. He benefited from having so much talent around him and the opposition did not concentrate on him defensively as much as they probably should have. Being on the court with four NBA Draft picks opened up scoring opportunities for Wiltjer as a freshman, but this coming year he’ll need to adjust to being a primary point of the offense. He’ll likely have to work much harder to free himself away from opponents to find an open shot and his game will be scouted and picked apart much more by opposing coaches. The challenges start well before a single game is even played for Wiltjer, as he’ll have plenty of competition for minutes with the incoming star-studded recruiting class.

Confidence will be crucial for Wiltjer, who got better and better on both ends of the floor a year ago. A poor performance at this weekend’s Adidas Nations Camp is not something to be overly concerned about, because the Kyle Witjer we all know and love is not one to keep his head down. The kid always seems to be happy and having fun with his teammates, and doesn’t seem like the type to get frustrated. If Kyle Wiltjer becomes the player that we all hope and believe he can be this season, he won’t just be a guy to come in and preserve a lead with a bucket or two anymore. Now Wiltjer will be relied upon to score buckets in bunches, and in critical moments. Wiltjer scored 24 points (a career-high) against Loyola last season. This year he’ll be asked to put up double figures against teams such as Maryland, Duke, Notre Dame, Florida, and Missouri. The 2012-13 season is filled with new challenges for Wiltjer, and if they are met, not only will the sophomore be one step closer to joining his National Champion teammates in the NBA, but he may get himself a second ring with a new group of teammates.

Article written by John Wilmhoff

Former beer vendor, college mascot and ESPN editor. This spring, you can also find me blogging about the Reds on Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilmhoff

16 Comments for Plenty of Challenges Ahead for Wiltjer

  1. the Big Dog
    11:51 am August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I hope he plays better than he did last week or we are in deep doggy ______. He went 1-11 in last game.

  2. SexnNursinHomes
    11:56 am August 6, 2012 Permalink

    1- yeah and Josh Carrier couldn’t miss in practice. Wiltjer drills them in games. I’ll take gametime over addidas shoe scrimmages.

  3. ohhai
    11:57 am August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Kid is going to score whether the defense pays attention to him or not. I just hope he can pull down the tough boards.

  4. njcat
    12:10 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    what held him back last year was his inability to move his feet quickly enough to play defense. not sure how he can improve that – so I have my doubts about whether he’ll ever contribute significant minutes. Not a great sign that he also may be loosing his shot. I suspect Cal brought Mays in because he wasn’t convinced Kyle could really add much to the team.

    My prediction.. he and Hood get a about 8 min a game.

  5. SexnNursinHomes
    12:19 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    4- seriously?? Soooo Wiltjer’s minutes will go down to 8 min a game this year? that’s absurd, Wiltjer averaged almost 12 minutes on a NCAA championship team, yet he can’t get 8 minutes with the upcoming team? smh…..

  6. bmt22033
    12:23 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    My only concerns with Wiltjer are his athleticism (good but not great) and his defense (just ok). Anybody that’s worried about his shooting, though, is either short-sighted or just trolling.

  7. J Fritz
    12:30 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Maybe I’m a bit of a cynic / realist–however you want to see it–but I think Wiltjer will have a better year in 12-13 with an incremental increase in his stats–not enough for the League or to live up to all of this preseason hype. I hope that I’m wrong, though. I’m as big of a Cats fan as the next. I’ve seen flashes of his pure shooting ability; I’ve also witnessed what appears to me as a lack / fear of physicality. I feel that his under-rated status could be replaced with a not playing up to potential one. I don’t think that the two labels necessarily mean the same. To me, under-rated means that you’re playing to your ability yet have flown under the radar of the media spotlight. Anyone seeing something that I’m not? I think that developmentally, it’s going to take Wiltjer a while longer to achieve greatness (junior or senior year). Again, I hope that I’m wrong, but that’s the way that I see it. Besides a deep love for Kentucky basketball, what is about Wiltjer that makes others believe he’s going to have such a break-out season?

  8. Bruce Pearl
    12:40 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Wiltjer has always looked slow to me. How can he ever defend guys who are quick?

  9. kentuckyrules
    12:41 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    #7- I agree with you too. I think Wilt will be an excellent 3pt shooter, w/ some minor mid-range potential. Last year, he was surrounded by great talent, who I would guess helped him get the shots he needed.

    Now, this years team may be able to do the same thing, however, I think it will take him this season to actually develop to what some are ‘hyping’ him up to. Junior year, he’ll break out. Sophomore year, about the same as Freshmen year, with a bit more PPG and MPG.

  10. Bruce Pearl
    12:42 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I need more Scotty Hopson.

  11. Lena
    12:55 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Haters gonna hate. I feel like Wiltjer has the potential to do great things. Last year was a team filled with leaders, and now he is the one that is going to have to step up and do the leading as a veteran. Hopefully this off season has proved to be a summer of working on the negative aspects mentioned above. I see him getting his speed and shooting in line and he will be seeing some time on the court for sure this season. Time will tell.

  12. cracka
    2:07 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    looked slow? the kid is 6’9″, 240 and only 19 years old … he’s playing a ton of ball and working out and getting experience, he’ll be better defensively gurrr n teed

  13. Turkeyblue
    2:11 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Has anybody on this site seen him lately? If he puts on 20lbs of muscle in his shoulders and legs, we won’t worry about how slow he is. I want to see the work ethic in the weight room and at the training table. Don’t want him to look like Jon Hood after a couple of seasons – who looks the same in the muscle category.

  14. Wild Turkey 101
    2:24 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Because of Wiltjer’s D he’ll be in foul trouble a lot, limiting his minutes.

  15. STEVE!
    2:40 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I agree he can score, but I have the same concerns about his defensive ability. He’s sort of a “tweener” at the forward position. I can’t see him banging with a power forward like Stokes at UT, but I also can’t see him guarding a Small Forward out on the floor. Late in the season, it seemed like the other teams gave the ball to whoever he was guarding and told them to drive on him every time down the floor.

  16. UK Freshmen
    4:01 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    He and Hood will lead the nation in mouth-breathing this year.