Stop me if this is familiar: a long, mildly athletic Canadian with a smooth outside jumper is about to enter his junior year facing a logjam at the forward spot. As a result, he is forced to weigh his options. He can either accept his fate as a key reserve and play out his junior year on schedule, or, he can redshirt– by choice, or as a result of transfer. The first option may be preferable to the team (insert cliche about depth here), but the latter is definitely the most advantageous for the young Canuck. A year off will not only free up some PT in the front court, it will also give him some much-needed time to get his body stronger, and to make his game less one-dimensional.
Oh, you thought I was talking about Wiltjer? Nope. I’m talking about Kelly Olynyk. You know, the incredibly goofy Gonzaga star who used a redshirt year to turn himself into a lottery pick.
A couple of posts down, Tyler evoked Jeff Sheppard’s name while laying out Wiltjer’s options for next year. And, while an apt comparison, it’s not quite as timely or relevant as the Olynyk one.
As mentioned, Olynyk has more in common with Wiltjer than just the maple syrup that runs through their bloodstreams. While obviously not carbon copies, they share a lot of the same strengths on the court (size, scoring ability, etc). More importantly though, Olynyk’s weaknesses at the end of his sophomore year were almost identical to the knocks that exist on Wiltjer right now.
Why does this matter? Because Olynyk took a year away from the court, worked his tail off, and turned himself into an elite college player and NBA prospect. And he did it at Gonzaga under the tutelage of Mark Few. You know, the same school at the top of Kyle Wiltjer’s not-so-top-secret transfer list.
I agree with Tyler that Kyle’s best option is to redshirt. I also agree (obviously) that the best place for him is UK. If he can get bigger, stronger, and faster during a redshirt year, he could be downright lethal if surrounded by the right pieces. If Wiltjer’s willing to work, I have no doubt that Cal will be able to get the most out of him. And at the end of the day, Kentucky is Kentucky, and Gonzaga isn’t.
That said, don’t be surprised if Mark Few is trying to convince him that he can be 2014-2015’s Kelly Olynyk. The ties between the two poutine-loving big men are too strong to ignore, and given Olynyk’s success on the court this past year, it’s an undeniably good pitch for the Zags to make.
Let’s just hope that the pull of Cal and the BBN is stronger than that of the Pacific Northwest and the opportunity to follow in his Canadian brethren’s footsteps.