Kyle Wiltjer felt Kentucky’s season was an “eye-opener” for him and teammates following the national championship year when everything seemed to go right for the Wildcats.
“It just shows us how much work we have to put in to get better individually and as a team,” said Wiltjer after UK’s season ended with a NIT loss at Robert Morris. “It has been a disappointing season, but life is more than just basketball. We have to really stay positive and use this loss to our advantage now and use this season, as bad as it was, to learn from it and get better.”
Wiltjer averaged 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. He shot 36.7 percent from 3-point range and 81 percent at the foul line. He had 50 assists in 33 games. He was also named the Southeastern Conference Sixth Man of the Year.
However, like his teammates, Wiltjer had his struggles. He often had problems defensively and was not as physical on the boards as coach John Calipari wanted. He also had stretches where he had trouble making shots.
While rumors circulated that he would transfer, Wiltjer never indicated he wanted to leave and reminded anyone who asked that he came to UK because he felt the competition would make him better. Yet as Calipari continued to add recruits for next season, Wiltjer’s departure kept being the source of rumors.
Once again Monday he tried to end those rumors via Twitter hours before UK issued a release indicating Archie Goodwin would put his name into the NBA draft but that Wiltjer and freshman Willie Cauley-Stein, who had been rumored to be leaning to leaving for the draft, would stay at Kentucky.
Here is what Wiltjer posted in a series of tweets on Twitter: “I just want everyone to know I AM NOT TRANSFERRING. The thought never crossed my mind. I love Coach Cal and the staff, UK, and the BBN. After talking with coach and the staff I understand what I need to do. This summer, I'm going to work hard to come back next season better and stronger to help my team fight for #9!”
Kentucky is already considered the favorite to win the 2014 national title by some because of its heralded recruiting class and return of Willie Cauley-Stein along with Wiltjer to go with the new players. Freshman forward Alex Poythress could also opt to stay at UK as Cauley-Stein did and not enter the NBA draft.
“I just have to put in a lot of work this summer and be ready to get more consistent. Just improving and staying positive. Just work on consistency,” Wiltjer said after the Robert Morris loss. “It is definitely always tough to stay positive when someone is criticizing or questioning you . I have good parents who keep me grounded, who tell me to be positive and keep working hard.”
Wiljter said he plans to work on his “athleticism” to become a better player.
“Working on my body physically and mentally and keep working on my skills as well,” he said.
Florida’s Erik Murphy has similar skills as Wiltjer and developed into one of the SEC’s best players this year for the Gators.
“He is a fantastic player, but I have to worry about myself and improve. He is a good player and I want to study his game and see how he is so effective, but I think I know what I have to do,” Wiltjer said when the season ended. “It’s tough when you don’t know what is wrong like we didn’t seem to know this year. It is always tough to lose, but we have to stay positive and just realize we have to be better players. I know I have to be better and I plan to be better next year and part of the type team we had when we won the championship.”