Tai Wynyard is in Kazakhstan having just finished the FIBA 3X3 U18 World Championships.
Last year Wynyard and his New Zealand team won the championship and he took home MVP honors. He was looking to repeat in both categories, and while he shined once again, New Zealand lost to Qatar in the semifinals. Wynyard scored 63 points in seven games and was the third-leading scorer in the tournament.
The event was organised back in 2011 and is going as strong as ever. Some of the notable alumni of the tournament include Cliff Alexander, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Damien Inglis of the Milwaukee Bucks.
I caught up with Julien Debove, a FIBA representative. Julien was kind enough to answer a few questions about Tai and the event:
James Streble: First off, thanks for taking the time and doing this. Tai Wynyard signed a letter of intent to come to Kentucky back in November of 2015. He earned MVP honors in your event last year. What can you tell Kentucky Wildcats fans about Wynyard's performance last year that made him the MVP?
Julien Debove: Last year Tai was selected MVP based on his offensive performance (2nd in scoring) but also his defensive impact (he had the block of the tournament in crunch time vs. Argentina) and for leading his team to gold.
JS: Wynyard arrived on campus in December of 2015 and Kentucky fans were really excited. They expected him to play because the team needed help in the post, but instead he red-shirted and never saw the floor. Going by what you have seen, was he not ready at that point in his development for big time college basketball or was it a case of getting acclimated to a new system and culture?
JD: I don't know enough about college basketball to say if Tai was ready or not earlier this year. All I can say is that he played for the New Zealand National Team and that he made a very good and quick adjustment to the specific rules of 3X3.
Tai is a special talent He was the MVP last year and he comes back with added experience, explosivity, handles, and range so naturally he will be one of the top talents.
JS: I watched New Zeland play against the Philippines earlier this week and Wynyard looked significantly better than any other player on the court. and ready to again claim the MVP. Is that more of a credit to him or the detriment to the level of competition he is facing?
JD: The Philippines are not considered as direct favourites so this may explain your initial reaction. Note that some of his teammates have bright futures, especially Tai's twin tower Sam Waardenburg.
JS: Thank you so much for your time.
Highlights of Tai:
A couple of things pop out at me while watching these highlights of Wynyard:
- He has better feet and post moves than I thought he would
- He has decent jump shot
- He is a relentless competitor under the basket
- He doesn't move great without the ball
- His stamina may be a question