Kyle Wiltjer: Redshirt year at Gonzaga was “the best year of my life”

Former Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Kyle Wiltjer sat down with Cameron Richardson, the host of the Between the Game and Life podcast, to discuss his start in basketball, next steps in his career, and balancing hoops with parenting.

The whole conversation is linked below, with Wiltjer revealing he is still on the hunt for an NBA opportunity after working out at NBA camps for the last few weeks, including a Dallas Mavericks camp last month.

Wiltjer talked about the differences between the NBA game and what basketball looks like abroad, something he is very familiar with after making stops in Greece, Spain, and Turkey since leaving Gonzaga in 2016.

“The game is different,” Wiltjer said. “It’s more skill-oriented, the way the offense is run, it’s more well-rounded. There is less one-on-one. So I think it’s interesting to see both sides. I did an NBA camp last week, the game is definitely different. There’s more space, the rules are a little different but it’s the skill. There’s tons of skilled players in the league, it’s not about that, but definitely they are taught a different way.”

Wiltjer went undrafted after averaging 20.4 points for Gonzaga during the 2015-16 season, but he caught on with the Houston Rockets and appeared in 14 games during the 16-17 season, mostly in garbage time. He was a monster in the G-League with the Rio Grande Vipers, averaging 20.5 points and 6.4 rebounds before ultimately heading overseas to play in Greece.

Wiltjer also spoke about his decision to transfer away from Kentucky and head to Gonzaga, and he spoke extremely highly of his one-year redshirt season and his overall fit in Mark Few’s program:

“I knew the fit would be good because they play with a four-man who goes inside and out, but if I were to transfer straight from Kentucky to Gonzaga without that off-year, I don’t think I would have been the man. I needed to work on my game….that year off was the best year of my life because I was able to work on my body and get in better shape. I was never strong, I was never quick, and after that year it wasn’t that I became LeBron James all the sudden, I just got better in every category.

Kyle Wiltjer (to Cameron Richardson)

While the sit-out transfer is no longer a requirement by the NCAA, the Zags will continue to use their highly impactful development program – which includes top-of-the-line strength programming – to help players reach their peak while playing in Spokane.

Hunter Sallis and Nolan Hickman are primed to show off the benefits of that program this season, while Efton Reid and newcomer Braden Huff (as well as Kaden Perry and Ben Gregg) will hopefully show some benefits in the coming years as well.

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