clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tai Wynyard reflects on first year at UK, his role, dunking on everyone and more

"I’m going to try to dunk on everyone if I can," said Wynyard during Wednesday's meeting with the media.

Chet White, UK Athletics

The Kentucky Wildcats just wrapped up one of the best recruiting classes that John Calipari has ever pulled in for 2016.

But while guys like De'Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo are the big names from this class, the first official commitment in the 2016 class was New Zealand forward Tai Wynyard. Ultimately, Wynyard would enroll early and join UK in the second semester last season before redshirting.

Still, Wynyard was a very raw player when he arrived in Lexington who was just getting his feet under him in terms of a college conditioning and weightlifting program. That's why Wynyard is essentially an addition in the 2016 class since he's still a redshirt freshman anyhow.

That doesn't mean Wynyard's one semester in Lexington wasn't a big help for him developing into an impact player for the Cats. On Wednesday, Tai spoke with the media about all of this, and here's a recap of what he had to say.

On biggest thing he's learned from playing at UK so far
"It's just a huge step up from any other basketball I've ever played in my life. I've played on my national team and all that type of stuff, but it's just a huge step up coming to Kentucky. It's just a lot different."

On the best part of his game and what he needs to improve
"My post moves. I'm really strong -€” I don't like to say that, but people tell me I'm kind of strong. I move my body really well. My footwork is getting a lot better right now. My rebounding, just because of my strength, I'm able to push bodies around and stuff like that. I feel like that's kind of my game right now. If you watch highlights from 3-on-3, I played really well over there, I got a couple dunks and stuff."

On what playing in the FIBA 3-on-3 World Championships
"It was huge opportunity for me being able to represent my country again and stuff like that. It was a lot of fun. The first couple of games were really easy. I played against a couple of smaller teams like Philippines and kind of smaller teams like that and it wasn't hard for me. But when we kind of got through the stages, semifinals, quarterfinals, it was kind of bigger guys. People don't really understand how tough the teams are over there."

On how aggressive he is in the post
"I try to be aggressive. It's kind of a tough question to answer. You gotta watch it for yourself. I don't really like talking about that stuff. But, I mean, yeah, a New Zealand person really tries to pride themselves on their toughness. Back home it's all about their strength and physicality and things like that. If you play in the men's league someone will pick you up and try to move you around. No fouls are called or anything like that. It's a little different over there."

On what he can gain from 3-on-3 basketball that translates to 5-on-5
"I mean, 3-on-3 basketball is just really quick. People don't understand how fit you have to be to play it. Even though you don't run as much or anything like that, you have to move quickly. It's all about jumping, and getting in (with a) quick pass and quick drills. It's just like 5-on-5 except it's all the highlights packed into the game. It's a lot of fun to watch."

On the freshman forwards
"They're all really athletic. They're jumping above the rim and everyone's dunking. It's just a really good team this year. Coming in, it's a lot of fun to watch."

On Bam Adebayo's presence ...
"He's a big guy. His shoulders are huge. Obviously, his physical attributes are just crazy. He's a really big guy."

On playing for Coach Cal 
"It was tough for my first couple days adjusting to Cal. He's just brutally honest with you, which is amazing. You don't get that from many coaches, they kind of sugar coat things. But he's just straight up with you which is a great attribute."

On adjusting to Calipari's honesty
"Yeah, I mean I liked it a lot, just the way he was and stuff. It was just tough for me because I wasn't fit at all. My conditioning was really bad and I wouldn't run as much as the other players."

On how Coach Cal would express his honesty
"I mean, he's just straight up. If you screw up he's just on you about it straight away. He'll stop the play and he'll just be straight up with you. I don't even remember much from last year, but he was just straight up."

On if New Zealand coaches are as honest
"They're straight up, but it's just a different kind of coaching technique they use over there. It's not as much running as well. Yeah, they make us run, but not like here. It's a little bit different back home. The game is more grounded. Not many people can jump high."

On one game where Coach Cal wanted him to go in and he wasn't ready
"Yeah, he told me to go in and I was like, ‘Oh, I don't know, I don't know. I want to save my eligibility.' I didn't feel as though I was ready that year. I felt like I wanted my game to be as good as it could get before I can actually start playing and save all my eligibility and have four more years."

On what Coach Cal's reaction was to him opting not to play
"He was like, ‘Oh, you don't want to play?' And I was like, ‘No, no, it's not that. I want my eligibility.' I couldn't really explain it because it was halftime, straight after. I was like, ‘Ohhh, what do I do? What do I say?' It was kind of a tough question to answer."

On how he thinks he can contribute to the team if he's playing well
"My rebounding is really (good). I've gotten a lot more athletic over the summer and I've been working on my game a lot more. My post moves and things like that."

On his role this season
"I mean, hopefully, I have a role on this team. Everyone on this team wants a role. The first thing in the first meeting that Coach Cal said was that none of you have been promised minutes, none of you are promised anything. It’s all just completely open."

On what he brings to the game
"I mean, I’m going to try to dunk on everyone if I can. I’m going to try to be physical. I’m going to try to play strong by setting great screens and getting rebounds and things like that."