Kyle Wiltjer makes a smart decision leaving Kentucky for Gonzaga

Kyle Wiltjer left the door open for a return to Kentucky last month when he announced he was considering a transfer.

Four weeks later, however, he made what’s probably a wise decision not to remain with the Wildcats.

Wiltjer, a Portland resident, will transfer to Gonzaga, his father confirmed Friday afternoon to CBSSports.com. The 6-foot-10 rising junior will sit out all of next season and have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in the 2014-15 season.

Many Kentucky fans were hopeful Wiltjer would have a change of heart and take a redshirt year in Lexington since he’d have to sit out a season anyway even if he transferred, but the truth is Gonzaga is probably a better option.

Wilter likely would have been a role player at best this season for Kentucky had he come back thanks to the arrival of an ultra-talented recruiting class. Even if Wiltjer got stronger and quicker during his redshirt year and some of the players ahead of him in the rotation enter the NBA draft, there’s no guarantee he still wouldn’t be fighting for minutes the next season because of the way John Calipari recruits.

At Gonzaga, Wiltjer will almost certainly start once he becomes eligible and he’ll get to play alongside close friend and fellow Canadian Kevin Pangos. What’s more, the Gonzaga staff recruited Wiltjer out of high school and can point to the success fellow Canadian forward Kelly Olynyk had this past season after taking a redshirt year to help him get stronger and develop an interior game.

Wiltjer certainly can be an asset to Gonzaga if he taps into potential.

He arrived at Kentucky as Rivals.com’s No. 22 recruit in 2011, a sweet-shooting forward coveted by the likes of Kansas and Texas in addition to the Zags and Wildcats. A lack of strength and lateral quickness sometimes made him a defensive liability either in the post or the perimeter at Kentucky, but he still contributed as a seventh man on the Wildcats’ national title team in 2012 and scored 10.2 points per game as a part-time starter in 2013.