- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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When Kyle Wiltjer announced his plans to transfer, he -- actually, stop right there. The most notable thing about Wiltjer's 10-day-old summer transfer decision is that it wasn't actually a decision at all. Remarkably, when the rising junior forward wrote a letter to UK fans through Kentucky's athletics web site, he included plenty of qualifiers, and he made it clear that while he was exploring his options, he wasn't dead-set on leaving Kentucky.
This news was quickly followed by a blog post from his coach, John Calipari, that was at equal turns supportive and hopeful that Wiltjer would recommit himself to the Wildcats in the weeks to come. The only thing more unusual than the non-announcement open letter was how peaceful the whole thing seemed.
Despite all that, it still felt like Wiltjer's departure was a done deal. After all, other than heading off Internet rumor, why announce that you're considering transferring if there's even a small chance you might come back? Even the tone of Wiltjer's text felt less predicated on genuine uncertainty than a desire to hedge; the uses of "might" and "possibly" almost read like they were tacked on by a wary editor. (For what it's worth, my editor agreed. And he would know.)
When Wiltjer's list of potential destinations -- all but one of which, Texas, lies on the West Coast, much closer than Lexington, Ky. to Wiltjer's native Portland -- the whole foregone conclusion thing seemed official. After a campus visit, Gonzaga rumors abounded. The kid was transferring, right?
Well, maybe. But also maybe not.
That's what Wiltjer's father, Greg Wiltjer, told the Portland Tribune's Kerry Eggers this weekend, anyway, and while it isn't a departure in any meaningful way from where we were before, there is more detail on the thought process underpinning Wiltjer's desire to look around. Perhaps most surprising? Returning to Kentucky for one year remains a totally viable option, and might actually fall in line with what Greg is hoping his son will eventually chose to do:
"Kyle is midway through the college process," his father says. "The reason he chose Kentucky was a chance to win a national championship, play with the best players in the nation and be in position to have an opportunity to play beyond college. Now he's looking at what lies in front of him.
'Kyle has a great relationship with Calipari, but he's not a stereotypical Calipari player. If he were at Duke or some other place, they'd be running him off screens, but that's not the Kentucky system. And now he has all these thoroughbreds coming in. Kyle's biggest challenge is his body. He needs to get stronger and quicker, to get help with nutrition, strength and agility."
[...] "The biggest time in Kyle's career lies in the 14 to 16 months ahead," Greg says. "I'd 100 percent like him to devote the next year to working on his body, but it's his decision. He feels vested in Kentucky. It has been his life the last two years. And Kyle is a very competitive kid. He is always trying to prove people wrong."
In short: Wiltjer is understandably concerned about a lack of playing time at Kentucky in 2013-14, and he may not fit Calipari's system to a T. But he is also emotionally invested in Kentucky, and the possibility of redshirting at UK might provide the same benefit -- sitting out a season and getting shredded, essentially -- as a transfer move.
This isn't news in the strictest sense; Wiltjer still hasn't decided to do anything concrete. But it is worth noting the soft-pedaled nature of his announcement wasn't simply lip-service. From the outside, anyway, the UK forward genuinely does seem torn. And however idiosyncratic the announcement may have been, the really interesting part is what comes next.
(Oh, and just because I was curious: According to Synergy scouting data, in the last two seasons just 34 of Duke forward Ryan Kelly's 608 total possessions were initiated as the recipient of screen action. Coach K doesn't really run bigs off screens. I'm not sure how many coaches actually do.)