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Why Did Kyle Wiltjer Pick Kentucky And Why Was It Such A Surprise?

Portland's Kyle Wiltjer spurned Gonzaga to commit to the University of Kentucky. Why did it come as such a surprise? For the latest Seattle sports news, opinion and analysis, follow SB Nation Seattle on Twitter.

Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune writes that Portland high school star Kyle Wiltjer picked the University of Kentucky because it seemed like a "great fit."

Wiltjer narrowed his choices to Wake Forest, California, Gonzaga and Texas before opting for Kentucky, joining former Jefferson High great Terrence Jones in Lexington.

"Terrence is a good friend of mine," Wiltjer says. "I talked to him and a couple of other people who helped me make the decision. They all agreed it was a great fit. There was no need to wait."

Wiltjer was impressed with several things about Kentucky. He has great respect for coach John Calipari and his record of sending players to the NBA. He feels he'll fit well in Calipari's uptempo system of play. And he was swayed by a great recruiting class Calipari has compiled for 2011.

"I want to surround myself with the best players, so I can push myself in practice every day and get better," Wiltjer says. "Coach Cal does a great job of pushing players. I've gotten to know him the last couple of months. I feel I can trust him."

Many reacted with shock that Wiltjer chose Kentucky but, at this point, a top quality local player going to a big time national power really shouldn't come as a surprise. In addition to Jones and Wiltjer, Kevin Love (UCLA), Kyle Singler (Duke) and Avery Bradley (Texas) all went national over local, with only Love staying on the West Coast. While Wiltjer's uncertain fit in the dribble drive offense, his lack of an official visit to Lexington and the trail of ethical questions that Calipari has left throughout college basketball might be enough to raise some eyebrows about Wiltjer's decision, the time for full-on surprise has come and gone.  

Kyle Wiltjer is a top recruit.  Elite coaches like Calipari are elite because they land top recruits, and they do it better than everyone else year after year. I understand disappointment at Wiltjer's decision.  But not surprise. Calipari is a machine.  He eats up Wiltjer -- and guys like him -- without a second thought.  He could land five top 20 prospects this year alone.  Surprise in this case -- given Calipari's track record and credibility with recent stars like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Rose -- crosses the line into naivety.

Perhaps, then, Wiltjer's commitment simply reinforces that, once and for all, the secret of Washington and Oregon high school hoops is finally, totally, and completely out nationally.  If he, a nearly prototypical "Gonzaga Player", sees Kentucky as a better stepping stone to the NBA and Kentucky is able to get a thorough read on his talents thanks to numerous AAU tournaments and showcases, what's stopping this from happening over and over again? Nothing, really, as long as Calipari can continue to deliver his recruits to the NBA draft and keep Kentucky's victories on the books.

The next local test case will undoubtedly be Seattle's Tony Wroten Jr., who is considering the University of Washington and other national powerhouses, including Kentucky -- of course -- although their interest level isn't entirely certain. With his family ties to the school, the pressure to stay home will be even more significant than it was on any of the players listed above. But if Wroten winds up heading Back East too, a lot of local coaches will be heading back to the drawing board.

For more on Kyle Wiltjer's decision to attend the University of Kentucky, click here.

For everything Gonzaga basketball, head over to SB Nation's The Slipper Still Fits.