Sources: Schools interested if Wiltjer leaves UK
Sources told ESPN.com that Gonzaga, Portland, Texas, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State are all interested in pursuing sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer after he announced Monday on Kentucky's website that he was exploring the option of transferring.
Kentucky sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer has drawn interest from Gonzaga, Portland, Texas, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State after he announced Monday on the Wildcats' website that he was exploring the option of transferring, sources told ESPN.com.
Wiltjer, who is from Portland, Ore., would have to sit out next season and would be eligible in 2014-15. His decision to attend Kentucky two years ago was a bit of a surprise at the time, with some wondering what kind of an impact he would have with the Wildcats.
Wiltjer was a reserve on the 2012 national championship team as a freshman. He averaged 10.2 points a game as the lone returning contributing player on the 2013 team that lost in the first round of the NIT.
Kentucky coach John Calipari told ESPN.com on Tuesday that Wiltjer can return if he wants, but if he chooses to leave Kentucky, he won't be blocked from transferring to any school.
Calipari recruited the top class in 2013 to go along with the return of forwards Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. Headlining the class up front are Julius Randle and James Young, two of the top big men in the class. Derek Willis, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee are also a part of the freshmen class expected to make an impact.
Wiltjer could benefit from a season off to get stronger before returning to play as a redshirt junior. But he left the door open to return to Kentucky if he can't find the right situation.
In a letter to the Big Blue Nation (Kentucky's fan base), Wiltjer said he was facing tough decisions heading into his junior season. He said Calipari had meant everything to him and had been supportive. He acknowledged that he had to work on his body.
"I want to find a situation that will help me do this as well as play a more significant role, wherever that may be," Wiltjer said in the statement. "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."
Calipari wrote on his website that Wiltjer had called him after returning from China while playing with the Canadian national team.
"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," Calipari wrote in a post titled, "Best of luck to Kyle Wiltjer."
"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."
Calipari said Wiltjer would be in good academic standing if he were to leave.
"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," Calipari said. "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."
The Wildcats also lost guard Ryan Harrow from last season's team when he transferred to Georgia State. Freshman Archie Goodwin declared for the NBA draft. But the Wildcats bring in a top guard tandem in Aaron and Andrew Harrison, who are expected to start for the team, tabbed as the preseason No. 1 by many media outlets.
Losing Wiltjer, though, would take one of the few experienced players out of the team's locker room. That would put even more responsibility on Poythress and Cauley-Stein to provide leadership for one of the youngest, though most talented, teams in the country.
Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz and ESPN Insider Jeff Goodman was used in this report.
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