SI cover: Gonzaga rising with power forward Kyle Wiltjer
Kyle Wiltjer arrived at Kentucky in 2011 as a McDonald's All-America. A lanky 6'10," 215-pounder, he helped his more well-known teammates win John Calipari's first national championship later that season.
One year later, after he was named SEC Sixth Man of the Year, he transferred to Gonzaga.
After Wiltjer arrived in Spokane, the Bulldogs were surprised with the type of athlete that had shown up on campus.
"Kyle was all finesse," Gonzaga's strength and conditioning coach Travis Knight said. “He wanted to avoid contact because he didn't have the body for it. Watching him run was almost painful."
Wiltjer, who is on the regional cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, is now up to 240 pounds and projects to be a stretch four should he decide to enter the NBA draft after his junior season.
"In the beginning it was working on all my weaknesses, which isn't the most fun," Wiltjer admits. “But after a while I could feel the difference in my body in practice. I felt stronger and more balance.”
That hard work seems to be paying off.
Whether he stays in school or goes to the pros, Wiltjer has Gonzaga in the national title conversation this season, with the team having already clinched the regular season West Coast Conference title.
Wiltjer is averaging 17.4 points and 5.8 rebounds this season, including a career-high 45-point effort against Pacific on Feb. 19. The third-ranked Bulldogs are still seeking their first Final Four appearance.
For more on Wiltjer, check out this week's Sports Illustrated (subscribe here).
Also in this issue: features on Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, Predators forward Mike Ribeiro and Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano.
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2015 Sports Illustrated Covers