Kyle Wiltjer, A Sleeping Giant

When basketball fans hear the name Adam Morrison, the words  “biggest draft bust ever” often come to mind and rightfully so. In just four NBA seasons, Morrison averaged 7.5 ppg with just over 2 rpg. For a number three overall pick, the numbers are staggeringly disappointing. 

However, people quickly forget that while in college at Gonzaga, Morrison absolutely tore up the competition. His long hair and mustache were feared across the nation as the point forward dismantled defenses left and right. In his final season at Gonzaga, Morrison averaged over 28 ppg and 5.5 rpg, earning him the 2006 Wooden Award. With those numbers, it’s understandable how he could have been taken off the board at No. 3 overall.

This season, Gonzaga will have a new point forward in their system, former Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer. In one season with the Cats, Wiltjer’s name didn’t get the national attention that he should have garnered. Averaging over 10 ppg on a star-studded roster such as Kentucky’s was incredibly impressive for anyone, especially a player coming off the bench.

The year before Wiltjer joined the squad, UK won the national championship with eventual NBA stars such as Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. However, in the 2012-2013 campaign, disaster struck the Cats. Star center Nerlens Noel suffered an ACL tear, and the Wildcats failed to make the NCAA tournament.

Wiltjer was a bright spot on an otherwise immensely underperforming team. People paid him no attention, as he was surrounded by a plethora of NBA talent. Often overlooked is Wiltjer’s performance that earned him SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors.

Now, with a full season completed and another UK final four run since we last saw Wiltjer on the court, he is better than ever. He has had a full year to build his body and develop his game, which is scary for opposing teams given what he accomplished without a full year of preparation. Wiltjer enters this season listed at 6’10” and 240 lbs; That’s a big boy to deal with on any part of the floor.

Furthermore, Wiltjer can do more than just bang in the post; he’s also got an incredibly consistent and pure jumpshot, as he demonstrated in a recent viral video. 

The Gonzaga system will feature Wiltjer much more than he was ever used at UK. He will have an opportunity to be a go-to part of an offense at a school who won’t compete at the level Kentucky did, but people know Gonzaga and respect their capabilities. At a school much closer to his home in Portland, Oregon, be on the lookout for Kyle Wiltjer to become a better shooting, and more complete big man for Gonzaga this season and in the near future.

*Photo credits to Andy Lyons, Getty Images

Quiet Players to Watch in ’14-’15
Quiet Players to Watch in ’14-’15