By JOSH NEWMAN
Special to ZAGSBLOG
The 6-foot-10 junior forward grew up in the Pacific Northwest, in Portland to be exact, where he helped lead Jesuit High School to three straight Oregon 6A state titles. He also counts Bulldogs junior guard Kevin Pangos as a friend. Both players are Canadian and both are currently on the Canadian National Team Development roster.
The topic of Wiltjer transferring came up during the Canadian team’s recent trip to China and while Pangos maintains he is not recruiting his friend, he certainly would not mind if he made his way back west to continue his career.
“He was talking about it, not a lot because he wanted to get his mind away from it, but he was thinking about it a lot on the trip (to China),” Pangos told SNY.tv on Thursday afternoon at the Nike Skills Academies at Kean University. “I told him obviously I would love to have him at Gonzaga if he chose to leave Kentucky, but I’m not gonna pressure him too much. He’s my friend and whatever decision he makes, he has to live with. I hope he comes back and to play with him, but we’ll see.”
Gonzaga, Portland, Texas, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State were listed as possible options by Andy Katz, and sources confirmed to SNY.tv on Tuesday that several of those schools were in the mix. If Wiltjer were to choose a school at the WCC level like Gonzaga or Portland, there is a good reason besides the proximity to home.
A McDonald’s All-American and a consensus top 25 recruit nationally in the Class of 2011, Wiltjer could presumably not only step right to the rotation once eligible in 2014-15, but be a focal point of the offense. At Kentucky, Wiltjer saw a limited role, as well as playing time, in 2012 for a Wildcats team that went 38-2 and won the national championship.
As a sophomore last season, Wiltjer averaged 10.2 points on his way to earning SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors in what was a down year for the Wildcats.
That down season, complete with a first-round NIT loss at Robert Morris, is about to give way to one of the best recruiting classes ever assembled. The group is headlined in part by 6-foot-9 power forwards Julius Randle and Marcus Lee, and 6-foot-10 center Dakari Johnson. Therefore, playing time figured to be tough to come by if Wiltjer had stayed.
“For sure he would be a focal point and that’s why he possibly wants to go to our school and that’s why we want him to come,” Pangos said. “He’s the type of guy you can build around. For me to be able to play with him for one year at least, it would be great and I think we could do something special.”