UK Basketball: Kyle Wiltjer's improved play makes him and the rest of the Wildcats more confident
Kyle Wiltjer (33) managed to block two shots against Tennessee just five days after UK¿coach John Calipari had severely criticized his defensive play at Vanderbilt. Wiltjer also scored 17 points in the win over the Vols and impressed his coach and teammates by twice asking for plays to get him the ball late in the game. (Victoria Graff / January 17, 2013)
“It builds his confidence and builds our confidence, too,” UK¿freshman Alex Poythress said. “When he is out there, he brings a lot of things to the table. He is 3-point shooter and is a great free throw shooter, too. But he showed he can score in other ways.
“I think he can be a good defender when he wants to be and when he chases down the ball screens. He’s working on getting rebounds and just getting better at that, too.”
Wiltjer had 17 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 26 minutes Tuesday in a 75-65 win over Tennessee. He’s averaging 10.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game going into Saturday night’s game at Auburn. He is UK’s top free throw shooter (80 percent), but has taken just 20 free throws in 16 games.
Kentucky coach John Calipari knows what it would take to get Wiltjer more free throws.
“You’ve got to be aggressive, play through bumps and be tough, ball fake and go in with the idea you’re going to get fouled, not going to avoid contact and say the guy grabbed me. They ain’t calling that,” Calipari said. “You’ve got to go in with an idea to hit baskets. Ball fake and go through, not ball fake and avoid, fadeaway, step back, all of that stuff that we’re doing. You can’t get fouled. They’re not going to just give us calls so you’ve got to create that contact, get a foul and get to the line.”
Wiltjer did ask twice late in Tuesday’s game to have plays run for him — and he scored both times.
“Kyle is always hitting shots in practice. If he wants to shoot the ball, he can. Nobody on this team has a problem with anybody taking shots. We can all hit shots. We are all unselfish players. If one person says he can hit a shot, we are going to get him the ball like we did Kyle,” Poythress said. “We just pass to him if he’s open and we know he will hit the shot. We have confidence in him.”
Here’s what Wiltjer had to say after Tuesday’s win:
Question: Did you make a conscious effort to be more active on defense in this game?
Wiltjer: “Yeah, that is a new way to play on defense with me hedging on the ball screen. It kind of takes the pressure off me. I think we are going to stick with that. It has worked the last two games and that’s the main thing.”
Question: Do you and Julius Mays work a lot on plays together?
Wiltjer: “We run a lot of handoffs and stuff together. When you have two shooters, it is hard to defend and something we want to use more.”
Question: Why did you attack the rim more in this game?
Wiltjer: “Coaches have just been on me to drive every day in practice. I kind of had that mentality in practice and I guess it carried over. They were playing my (outside) shot pretty heavy.”
Question: How is it to see what Nerlens Noel has done in recent games?
Wiltjer: “His intensity has been great on both sides of the ball. He’s been active and when he’s like that, we are lot better.”
Question: Have you changed anything in your workouts recently?
Wiltjer: “Every day in practice just going hard. Coaches have been really on me to be aggressive and look for my shot and using that to kind of get in the lane a little more.”