Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer Set to Return, Will be Favorite to Win Wooden Award

By James Szuba
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, it was announced that forward Kyle Wiltjer will return to Gonzaga for his senior season. Wiltjer’s decision to forgo the NBA draft and return to Spokane is wise as it’s plausible that he could have went undrafted this summer.

Wiltjer averaged 16.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game all while shooting 54 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from deep. The lengthy swingman showed a great ability to shoot the ball from outside and to take smaller defenders into the post for scoring opportunities this season.

The Portland native was in the running for the John R. Wooden Award in the 2014-15 season, which highlights the nation’s top collegiate basketball player. Frank Kaminsky, deservingly so, took home the award in a close race against Jahlil Okafor. With players like Kaminsky, Okafor and Delon Wright gone, Wiltjer should be the favorite to win the award next season.

The knock on Wiltjer will be that he plays in the West Coast Conference, so he’ll have to improve his numbers from a season ago. There should be more shots available as the ‘Zags have lost Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley to graduation. That, and the fact that Wiltjer has a chance to be the best offensive player in the nation next season.

The award won’t come easy as Wiltjer will have stiff competition with guys like Ron Baker and Malcolm Brogdon, who should also be preseason favorites to take the award. Wiltjer will have to improve his defense and overall strength as well, especially if he wants to play at the next level.

With that said, Gonzaga will boast one of the best frontcourts in the country with Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski joining Wiltjer up front. Expect Gonzaga to repeat as conference champions and perhaps make another Elite Eight run with hopes of going further in the dance.

James Szuba is a college basketball writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesSzuba

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