- No. 13/12 Florida Gators - February 25, 2017 - Rupp Arena - 2:00 PM EST - CBS
As I do with all of our players over the summer, I’ve been in constant communication with Kyle Wiltjer over the last few weeks during his experience with the Canadian National Team. Kyle called me before he left for China and when he returned on Sunday.
After playing with Canada, Kyle feels like he could have a more prominent role in another program than he might have with us next season. He expressed to me that that’s the kind of situation he wants to be in for his last two years of eligibility. For his future, he may be right.
In my mind, Kyle is going to be a professional player as soon as his body begins to change. He has a mentality, a skill set and the length to be a pro, but the maturity of his body has not caught up with the rest of his game yet. He knows that and he’s working on that.
Kyle went from being the seventh man on the national championship team to the Sixth Man of the Year in the SEC, and I felt like over the next few years he was going to develop into the player I know he will eventually become. Unfortunately, that may happen somewhere else.
The one thing that all of us have to understand is every player we have is on a different path. There is no cookie cutter to this. When you talk about players first, every player is different – from their physical growth to their mindset, their academic progress and their mental maturity. Everyone is different, and they all need us in different ways.
Kyle Wiltjer is on a different path than Anthony Davis, who was on a different path than Darius Miller, who was on a different path than DeAndre Liggins. Anyone who comes to Kentucky and thinks they are going to be on the same path as someone else is wrong. You are on your own path to success. No one should feel that they have to leave after a year or they’ve failed. Many will leave after a year, but that’s their path. Others will stay four years, but that’s their path.
Kyle’s choice to explore options at another school disappoints me, but it’s his decision at the end of the day, and I fully support his decision. I would love for him to go through this process and return to us, but I will support him and help him in any way I can. He’s a terrific young man, a great student, a tremendous basketball player and an excellent teammate. If he does choose to go somewhere else, that school will be very lucky.
I want our fans to know if Kyle does indeed leave, his academics are high enough that his transfer will not hurt our university. We all need to understand that he’s leaving on his own terms. We all want him back, but it’s not what we want; it’s what he wants, and that’s OK.
It hasn’t happened very often in my career, but transfers are a part of our game. My philosophy has always been to support the kid in whatever way I can and make sure he can still pursue his dreams, because ultimately that’s all I want for these young men.
The end goal – the only true goal – is success: reaching your dreams. Anytime a player doesn’t feel like he can achieve those dreams with us, I feel like we’ve failed him, not that he’s failed us.
I told Kyle I’ll play whatever part he wants in his transfer, whether that’s being involved and calling other schools on his behalf or not being involved in any way. He expressed to me that he needs my help and advice, which I will give. Whatever Kyle chooses – and I still hope he ends up back with us – I wish him and his family the best of luck.
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