One McDonald’s All-American in, another possibly on the way out.
Hours after Prestonwood (TX) star Julius Randle verbally vowed to become the sixth Burger Boy in Kentucky’s record-setting class, news broke that a former Arches All-American may be leaving Lexington to evade the logjam. Jerry Meyer, national recruiting analyst for 247sports.com, says he’s hearing sophomore stretch-4 Kyle Wiltjer will transfer closer to home in the Pacific Northwest.
A Portland transplant by way of British Columbia, Wiltjer committed to Kentucky hastily despite never visiting the school. The Wildcats marksman did, however, take a trip northward to Spokane and the campus of Gonzaga. If Meyer’s source is accurate, a return visit could be in order.
In five months, the Cats will usher in the most acclaimed recruiting class of all-time — seven of the hottest names in high school hoops, headlined by a trio of star Texans: Randle and the Texas two-step of Andrew and Aaron Harrison. With Randle in tow, freshman center Willie Cauley-Stein likely returning and a pair of blue-chip bigs (Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee) oncoming as well, playing time next season will be hard to come by at the 4 and 5 spots.
Wiltjer, a shooting specialist exposed on the defensive end against bigger opponents, would likely be the odd man out in the rotation. Randle is the top power forward in high school, a bruising, but skilled player who compares favorably to former Wildcat Terrence Jones (Randle is more explosive and better at finishing around the rim). He didn’t commit to John Calipari to ride the pine in back of a specialty player. Johnson and Cauley-Stein, provided his hints of returning to school are true, will split the minutes at the pivot. Lee, a 4/5 tweener, figures to vie for playing time as a reserve power forward.
In light of Randle’s commitment, Kentucky is currently two-over the scholarship limit for the 2013-14 season. Nerlens Noel’s impending NBA draft declaration will pare that surplus down to one, and if Wiltjer follows through and seeks his release, the Cats would then break even. In the meantime, the program doesn’t have enough scholarships to mete out to its committed players without stripping one from a current member of the team.
Athletic scholarships, to be clear, are not guaranteed, renewable instead on a year-to-year basis. In an emergency, Kentucky could decline to renew the scholarship of former walk-on Jarrod Polson (Polson is on track to graduate in the spring anyway) or kindly (not so kindly) nudge fifth-year senior Jon Hood out the door. Wiltjer’s departure would eliminate those troublesome extra steps.
Were he to transfer, Wiltjer would have to sit out the 2013-14 season in accordance with NCAA rules.