The 2011 recruiting class has progressed like a dream thus far. Locked up are two of the top guards on the West Coast in Gary Bell and Kyle Dranginis and tonight, All-Everything power forward Kyle Wiltjer announced that Gonzaga was in his top seven. While this announcement is not anything to over-analyze or over-publicize, it is another stepping stone to what could be a dream 2011.
There's little beating around the bush when it comes to Kyle Wiltjer. He's an elite prospect and, what's even more exciting, is that he appears to be made for Mark Few's offense. The versatile big man that can do a little bit of everything has had great success at Gonzaga. Most recently, Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye have shown what it means to truly be a hybrid and current Zag Kelly Olynyk appears to be on his way as well. Everything seems to be lining up perfectly for Wiltjer and the Zags except...those other six schools. In case you missed it, which I doubt you did, Kyle's "other six" are Cal, Texas, Kentucky, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Kansas. No offense to the past or current Gonzaga players...but that is a six-headed monster to the likes of which we have never seen the Zags go up against. What's fascinating about this, however, is that I am supremely confident in Mark Few's chances to reel Wiltjer into Spokane and complete the 2011 pairing that Max and I have been dying to see for a long, long time.
continue reading for more on Wiltjer's final seven
Reading over his top seven, I honestly can't help but think about all the schools Kyle turned away a few hours ago when he announced. How about the entire Pac-10 save for Cal? How about the entire Pacific-Northwest save for Gonzaga? State of Oregon? Nope. It is so easy for a kid from Oregon to say "my top three are Arizona, Oregon, and Cal". Staying on the West Coast is great fun and playing in the Pac-10 gives you plenty of challenges but when I look at Wiltjer's list, it is pretty obvious he did his homework and chose the places where he could grow most as a player and where they were going to be dedicated to winning basketball games.
With that being said, I still do believe there are a number of factors that make sense when you consider how Gonzaga stacks up against the rest. The most obvious one is location. Wiltjer has made it clear he's not really interested in staying up in the Pac-NW but the familiarity with the area and the fact that his parents can watch a number of his games in person has to be a draw on some level. Almost as important is style of play. Like I said in the opening, Kyle's game really fits well into what Mark Few wants to do on the court. The great thing about Kyle is that his post game has grown tremendously over the summer and, as opposed to a year ago when scouts were complaining that he was too perimeter-based, he now is the proud owner of numerous post moves.
Going along with familiarity is the fact that Kyle wants to play with players that he is comfortable around and are going to give him the best shot at reaching the next level and winning a title. Look, Kyle can throw a dart at the wall and land on one of his top seven and be more than satisfied with the talent around him but the comfort factor is some thing I feel very good about for Gonzaga. He's played on the Canadian international team with Manny Arop and I believe Kelly Olynyk. He played most recently with fellow Gonzaga recruit Kevin Pangos and the two have struck up an awesome friendship. It is well within the realm of possibility that the two have once or twice said "Hey, we could go do this up at Gonzaga for the next four years". I might be being a bit greedy with the four years!
There are plenty of reasons why we should be excited about Kyle Witljer and his announcement tonight. If for nothing else, it is fun just to look at the program and where Mark Few has brought it. If we do in fact land Wiltjer, Few will have locked up easily the best player in Idaho (Dranginis), easily the best player in Oregon in Wiltjer, and arguably the best player in Washington in GBJ.
We wish Wiltjer nothing but the best as he continues to make these difficult decision and look forward to reporting on an official visit soon!
Could the dream 2011 class be on the horizon?