Kyle Wiltjer likes to test himself against the best

June 12, 2011 


Portland, Oregon--March 9, 2011--Jesuit post #30 Kyle Wiltjer scores over Roseburg's #5 Micah Audiss. Jesuit High defeats Roseburg High 68-39 in the boys 6A state championship basketball quarterfinals at the Rose Garden. Doug Beghtel/ The Oregonian


Kyle Wiltjer

Position: Power forward

Height: 6-10

Weight: 230

Hometown: Portland, Ore.

High school: Jesuit

Rivals ranking: No. 22

Scout ranking: No. 22

ESPN ranking: No. 18

MaxPreps ranking: No. 19

The final player to join Kentucky's No. 1 recruiting class was also the most surprising.

Kyle Wiltjer had never set foot on UK's campus when he announced in August that he would sign on with the Wildcats. He'd visited all four of the other schools on his list: Gonzaga, Texas, California and Wake Forest. So when he said he'd made his decision a couple of days before he actually made that choice public, most UK fans wrote him off.

It turns out Wiltjer didn't need to see where he would be going. He just needed to know who would be going there with him.

"I want to surround myself with the best players, so I can push myself in practice every day and get better," Wiltjer told the hometown Portland Tribune shortly after committing. "Coach Cal does a great job of pushing players. I've gotten to know him the last couple of months. I feel I can trust him."

Wiltjer has talked at every turn about the opportunity to play with Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Anthony Davis. He calls Terrence Jones a good friend and consulted with his fellow Portland native before picking the Cats.

The versatile post player is at his best when there's real competition. He drew rave reviews during the week of the McDonald's All-American Game, with several analysts praising his intensity and some saying he had the best practice sessions of anyone.

"He's a young man that we knew who we were getting here," John Calipari said. "And he said, I want to play with the best. I want to be coached in a way that elevates my game. I'm not afraid of the challenge because I'm going to work hard."

Wiltjer credits his father for the work ethic that drew Calipari's attention. Greg Wiltjer played on the Oregon State team that advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight in 1982 before heading overseas for a successful professional career. He also passed along his low-post secrets to Kyle, including the seldom-seen sky hook, which Kyle perfected while leading his high school to three state championships.

But Wiltjer isn't the prototypical on-the-block big man. He moves well away from the basket and has an excellent outside shot for a player of his size.

Nobody expects him to be a one-and-done player like his three classmates, and Wiltjer himself has said he's coming to Lexington with the idea of being here for four years. As long as there's plenty of competition, he doesn't mind hanging around.

"I want to be part of something special," Wiltjer said when he committed.

It sounds like he'll fit right in.

Ben Roberts

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