Ex-Cats

Kyle Wiljter signs with Raptors, ready for ‘uphill battle’ to make roster

Houston Rockets forward Kyle Wiltjer (30) in the second half of an NBA basketball game late Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Denver. The Rockets won 128-110.
Houston Rockets forward Kyle Wiltjer (30) in the second half of an NBA basketball game late Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Denver. The Rockets won 128-110. AP

Former Kentucky and Gonzaga star Kyle Wiltjer has signed a one-year, $1.3 million non-guaranteed deal with the Toronto Raptors, Dime Magazine reported.

“I’m just really excited to be back in Toronto and Canada,” Wiltjer, a Canadian-American who played for Canada in the 2011 Nike Hoops Summit, told Dime. “I’ve been working really hard all summer long to get better in all facets of my game and I’m just happy that I’ll be in my home nation. …

“It’s an uphill battle, but I have every intention of making this team,” Wiltjer said.

Wiltjer split time between the Houston Rockets and their NBA developmental league affiliate, during his rookie NBA season. He averaged 0.9 points and 0.7 reboundsin 3.1 minutes per game in 14 appearances with the Rockets. In 22 games for Rio Grande Valley, he averaged 20.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.8 blocks while shooting 37.7 percent from three-point range and 86.4 percent at the free-throw line.

Wiltjer was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers during the offseason part of the deal for star guard Chris Paul. He averaged 5.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in four games in the Las Vegas Summer League but was released on July 15.

“I got thrown in the Chris Paul trade and I was really down after it happened because I thought Houston was a great spot for me,” Wiltjer told Dime. “It really showed me that anything can happen and you have to always be prepared to move.”

The Portland, Ore., native was a freshman on UK’s 2012 national championship team. As a sophomore, Wiltjer was named Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game for the Wildcats.

Wiltjer, who transferred after two seasons at UK, averaged a team-high 20.4 points to go with 6.3 rebounds as a senior at Gonzaga. He shot 43.7 percent from behind the three-point line while helping the Bulldogs reach their sixth Sweet Sixteen in program history.

Dennis Varney: 859-231-3514, @ExCats

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