Gonzaga basketball star Kyle Wiltjer decided to spurn the pros to spend his senior year with the Zags, but the All-America forward may find it difficult to repeat as the Bulldogs’ leading scorer.
The Bulldogs confirmed Monday that Wiltjer is coming back. On Sunday, guard Damion Lee – the nation’s fifth-leading scorer as a junior this past season – announced that Gonzaga is one of five schools he is considering for his new home.
Lee, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, averaged 21.4 points per game for Drexel of Pittsburgh. He plans to graduate in June, which would make him eligible him next season at any four-year school.
Various media have reported that two other Division I team scoring leaders include Gonzaga on their short list. Those players are Washington point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (15.6) and Missouri forward Johnathan Williams III (11.9). Both players have received releases to transfer, but they must sit out next season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. They would be redshirt juniors in 2016-17.
Wiltjer’s return assures Gonzaga of another dominant front line. Starting center Przemek Karnowski announced Friday he would return for his senior year, and reserve forward Domantas Sabonis has continued to maintain he’s staying at Gonzaga since first making his decision public in a Feb. 12 interview with SportspressNW.com. Some NBA draft projections had Sabonis going in the first round.
Sabonis figures to start as a sophomore after averaging 9.7 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds in just 21.6 minutes as Gonzaga’s sixth man. The Bulldogs figure to bring another talented big man off the bench next season – 7-1 center Ryan Edwards, who redshirted as a freshman in 2014-15.
The 6-10 Wiltjer averaged 16.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in his first season at Gonzaga, but the Kentucky transfer drew little interest from NBA scouts. Wiltjer’s athleticism and defense are question marks in the NBA, but he has already graduated and was considering the pros. As with father Greg, Wiltjer may wind up enjoying a long, lucrative playing career in Europe.
Gonzaga loses three starters and junior forward Angel Nunez off a 35-3 team that set a school record for wins, won the regular-season and tournament championships in the West Coast Conference and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for the second time in school history. The Bulldogs fell one win short of their first Final Four appearance when they lost to eventual champion Duke.
Nunez, unable to find much playing time at Louisville or Gonzaga, is transferring to South Florida. He’s on track to graduate in June after averaging 2.7 points, 1.9 rebounds and 6.3 minutes in his second season at Gonzaga.
All three of Gonzaga’s senior starters – point guard Kevin Pangos, shooting guard Gary Bell Jr. and small forward Byron Wesley – have drawn little interest from the NBA. All, however, are quite capable of playing professionally at some level.