Another top-ranked recruiting class is poised to perform on the hardwood for the Kentucky Wildcats. Ryan Harrow. Julius Mays. Willie Cauley-Stein. Archie Goodwin. Nerlens Noel. All highly-touted players entering their first seasons as Kentucky Wildcats. But what about the top Kentucky player back from last season’s national title team? The NBA Draft cleared out the Kentucky starting five and its sixth man. But there’s still sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer, arguably the team’s top shooter from a season ago. Wiltjer was a key member of Kentucky’s eighth national title team.
A 6-10 forward from Portland, Ore., Wiltjer appeared in all 40 games for the Wildcats during the 2011-12 season. The accurate-shooting Wiltjer made numerous long-range shots for the Wildcats. He averaged 5.0 points per game, draining 35 3-pointers during his freshman campaign. His perimeter shooting came alive shortly after the 2011-12 season tipped off.
The Portland-product, whose father Greg played for the Canadian national team in the 1984 Summer Olympics, proved that he could score early on in his college career, ripping the nets for a career-high 24 points in Kentucky’s win over the Loyola (MD) last December. Showcasing his long-range shooting down the stretch for the Wildcats, Wiltjer drained a 3-pointer in wins over the Iowa State Cyclones, Indiana Hoosiers, Baylor Bears and Louisville Cardinals.
In high school, Wiltjer earned McDonald’s All-American Honors and was named player of the year in Oregon. Wiltjer, who chose Kentucky over the California Golden Bears, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Gonzaga Bulldogs, Kansas Jayhawks, Texas Longhorns and Wake Forest Demon Deacons, figures to play out of an even more prominent role for the Wildcats in the 2012-13 season as the current group of Wildcats chase the school’s ninth national title.