Key stats: 16.7 PPG, 53 FG%, 6.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.7 BPG, 0.5 SPG
Draft projection: Second round *fingers crossed*
A former teammate of Willie Cauley-Stein, Kyle Wiltjer also decided to stay in school after winning the 2012 National Championship with Kentucky. Wiltjer’s path, however, split off from Cauley-Stein the moment the confetti started falling on that team. Instead of staying in Kentucky’s prep-to-pro incubation chamber, he ran away. Wiltjer was highly recruited out of high school, but at Kentucky, surrounded by NBA-ready bodies, the slender 6-10 forward was marginalized into a strict role as a perimeter shooter. He could’ve ridden out his scholarship as a bench player on a great team, but that wouldn’t have helped Wiltjer’s NBA chances. He needed a makeover.
Three years and a transfer to Gonzaga later, Wiltjer’s back in the NCAA tournament—this time as his team’s best player. Since leaving Kentucky, Wiltjer’s been on his grind, hitting the gym harder than ever. Coming into Gonzaga after taking a year off, he was 20 lbs heavier, and had added a post-game to go with his newfound bulk. His perimeter skills are as deadly as ever, too. Even at 6-10, 240, Wiltjer shoots the three-ball at a 46 percent clip. That’s terrifying.
Wiltjer’s regeneration has been remarkable. Earlier this month, he told Sports Illustrated, “I feel like a different player. My balance, my speed, everything is better. It’s like I’ve been rebuilt.” He hasn’t totally sold NBA scouts on his defense yet, but with continuous improvement and impressive athleticism, Wiltjer’s rise from skinny shooter to complete stretch-four should be rapid enough to earn a draft selection. The modern NBA game is placing a high value on guys with Wiltjer’s confluence of size and shooting, giving him a strong shot at getting a real look from the Association.