Basketball: Bears lose Wiltjer to Kentucky

A tough recruiting setback for the Golden Bears on Saturday afternoon when Kyle Wiltjer, a 6-9, 225-pound power forward with superb shooting and passing skills, chose Kentucky over Cal and Wake Forest.

Mike Montgomery and his staff have been courting Wiltjer, a senior at Jesuit HS in Portland, for well over a year. He is the big man they hoped to add to the strong class of perimeter players who begin their freshmen seasons this year.

And he is going to Lexington, where he isn’t even the top power forward in the Wildcats’ 2011 class. That distinction belongs to Chicago prep Anthony Davis, rated the No. 1 overall prospect in the country by Scout.com.

Wiltjer announced his plans — this is an oral commitment and does not become binding until the November signing period — at halftime of the Boost Mobile Elite 24 all-star game, played on outdoor courts at Venice Beach and televised by ESPNU.

Wiltjer told ESPN he chose the Wildcats because they provide the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity to prep himself for the NBA. Coach John Calipari, who had four freshmen drafted this past June, already had corraled a 2011 class that features the No. 1 point guard (Marquis Teague), No. 1 small forward (Michael Gilchrist) and No. 1 power forward (Davis) in the class, according to Scout.com.

Wiltjer is rated the No. 5 PF and No. 19 prospect overall by Scout.com. Rivals.com has him as the No. 4 PF and No. 25 overall. He showed he can hang with the best on Saturday when he scored 20 points and was named his team’s co-MVP in a 131-128 all-star victory.

The Bears courted Wiltjer effectively, earning praise from his parents, Greg and Carol, on two occasions that I’ve talked with them. His mother this evening said, “Coach Montgomery is phenomenal. He’s been so legit from Day 1 with us.”

The family made an unofficial campus visit to Berkeley during the football season a year ago, and Monty had to believe he had a great shot here.

Wiltjer has never stepped foot on the Kentucky campus, but his mother told me he made up his mind after attending a nine-day Christian service camp, where he left basketball and recruiting behind after a busy July traveling with the Oakland Soldiers and had the chance to think things through. He returned home and announced to his parents he wanted to attend Kentucky.

Carol Wiltjer told me that she and her husband initially counseled him to slow down and let this play out over time — I sense they would have been delighted had their son picked Cal, although neither said that to me. He came back to them with an emphatic declaration that this is what he wants and they need to believe in his choice.

“I don’t want to take the easy route. I want to be challenged,” he told them.

In the final analysis, Carol Wiltjer said, mom and dad signed on with Kyle’s choice. “It’s his decision,” she said.

But a hard one for Montgomery and his staff to swallow.

Jeff Faraudo

  • The Bug

    Calipari is slime. I just hope it works out for this young man

  • Bears

    I have a lot of confidence Monty will bring in a very good recruiting class.
    Who knows what will happen between now and November but Monty is legit and will get it done!

  • Ozone

    Man, that’s a tough one. I’m not a Calipari fan. Good luck to the kid, still time to change his mind.

  • Dan

    Nice Christian boy chooses to play for the slimiest coach in college hoops. Very interesting.

    This would have been an unbelievable get for Montgomery and the Golden Bears program. Not only is he very and uniquely talented, he is supposedly a great kid from a fantastic family. He is someone who would have done the Golden Bear nation proud on and off the court.

    Also, if he had chosen to head to Berkeley, it probably makes it more attractive for other Bear recruits like Jabari Brown and, next year, Brandon Ashley to come also.

    It is a good sign that Cal was on the running for him mlate, it speaks well of Monty. Hopefully he will be able to get this caliber of player to come to Cal.

    There is still time to change his mind if he has second thoughts. If he sticks with Kentucky, I wish him well … and the rich get richer, I guess.

  • Brian A

    Crazy that he signed on without even visiting Kentucky!

  • uh oh.

    If he never even visited the place, then he appears to be completely infatuated by the hype machine, the potential for fame, and ego – the dark side. Calipari is a master of the dark side.

  • The Wisdom Cow

    I am sad at how wrong I was to believe Monty would be able to bring in some top Bigs. Given his history and his style of play (sending the ball through a big whenever possible), I was certain he would have landed at least one monster by now. [Sigh]

  • uh oh.

    I agree with the cow.