The Unlikely Rise of Kyle Wiltjer and Willie Cauley-Stein
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The Unlikely Rise of Kyle Wiltjer and Willie Cauley-Stein

John Wilmhoffalmost 7 years


Article written by:John WilmhoffJohn Wilmhoff


gooniescouch   A lot has changed for Kyle Wiltjer and Willie Cauley-Stein since they last walked off the court together, in an NIT loss at Robert Morris University. The two who once starred in YouTube films such as “A Saturday Night with the Goonies” and "Call of the Wildman-Goonie Style" are now both National Player of the Year candidates midway through the season. Two years ago, nobody would have ever written “Kyle Wiltjer” and “Wooden Award” in the same sentence. The same could probably be said for Willie Cauley-Stein, although he has always had the physical gifts to be great. Willie came to UK with potential and Kyle arrived eager to fill a supporting role. Since that strange evening in Moon Township, Pa., neither player’s script has gone according to plan. Cauley-Stein would come off the bench for most of 2014. An ankle injury sidelined him from playing at all in the Final Four. Wiltjer needed a year off to transform his body and also a program that could offer a bigger role. This season, Cauley-Stein has emerged as a leader of a team making a serious run at an undefeated season. If Kentucky goes through the regular season unbeaten, its most-complete player could have a case for the Wooden Award. Wiltjer, now at Gonzaga, is the leading scorer for the current No. 3 team in the country. wiltjergonzaga If Gonzaga is as dominant as expected in the WCC, it could head into the tournament ranked No. 2. Cauley-Stein and Wiltjer, once afterthoughts in their recruiting classes at Kentucky, could end up as the most impactful players for the nation's top two teams. I debated using this space to consider scenarios that either Willie or Kyle could make a case to win the Wooden Award, but instead I'm just going to appreciate the improbable fact that each are contenders for the Heisman Trophy of basketball in late January. Oh, how far the Goonies have come.  In Wiltjer’s notable performances to date he’s scored 32 points (vs. Georgia), 24 points on three separate occasions (vs. UCLA, BYU and Pepperdine) and 15 points in Gonzaga's only loss (vs. Arizona). Wiltjer (16.6 ppg) is in action tonight at 11 ET on ESPNU in a WCC clash against St. Mary’s (15-3, 7-0).

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