Kentucky's Kyle Wiltjer announced he is leaving the team after two seasons. (Jim Owens/Icon SMI)
Transfers between major conference teams can sometimes create flashy headlines for all the wrong reasons. Coaches plant their feet with uncompromising ground rules. They block transfers to teams within their own leagues. Things can get ugly.
What was once a simple move -- a player transferring from one school to another -- can raise a number of issues about not only that particular player, but his old and new coach as well.
Talking about transfers doesn’t always make people happy these days.
Perhaps this latest potential move will change your tune. Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer formally addressed fans Monday night in a heartfelt letter on Kentucky athletics’ official website expressing his preference to find a team where he can play “a more significant role.”
During this next year, I will be working on my body so that I am able to compete the way I know I can. I want to find a situation that will help me do this as well as play a more significant role, wherever that may be. Even though I might physically leave Lexington, I will never forget the support and kindness that everyone has shown my family and me. It is difficult to put into words how hard it is to possibly leave BBN, yet I am confident that whatever I choose, I will give it my all. Regardless, I will always bleed blue and will never forget these amazing last two years at Kentucky.
The motivations behind Wiltjer’s transfer are easy to spell out. Two years ago, Wiltjer was a five-star recruit with designs on competing for a national championship. He achieved that goal during his first season with the Wildcats, and entered 2012-13 with the promise of more minutes and more scoring-conducive touches on the offensive end. Next season, when Kentucky welcomes a recruiting class feted enough to rank number one overall even after watching No. 1 prospect Andrew Wiggins sign with Kansas this spring, Wiltjer’s minutes and shot opportunities were destined for a sizeable decline. That “more significant role” Wiljter’s seeking? Kentucky simply doesn’t have enough room, or enough ball to go around, for Wiltjer to attain his wish.
Not only does Wiltjer’s transfer make sense for him, the way John Calipari is handling his impending departure is all class.
In a blog post on his personal website that read just as thoughtful and heartfelt as Wiltjer’s own letter, Calipari expressed his disappointment with Wiltjer’s transfer, but he also said something else: He offered a personal hand in helping Wiltjer find the best basketball situation possible next season -- whether as a spot-shooting reserve on his own national championship-contending Wildcats team, or somewhere else.
It’s an unusually courteous move for a head basketball coach at a major conference program to make, and it rams home what Calipari has said all along while defending his program and his perceived exploitation of the one-and-done system: the players come first.