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Kentucky Basketball: Tai Wynyard transferring, granted full release

Tai Wynyard is leaving UK to pursue other opportunities.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Kansas Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, the Tai Wynyard era in Lexington has come to an end.

The New Zealand big man will transfer this year and be granted a full release, the school announced Monday.

Wynyard is a redshirt sophomore who averaged one point and 1.8 rebounds in 5.4 minutes per game this past season. His last action was against Georgia on Dec. 31. He had one rebound in seven minutes of play.

Wynyard also didn’t play for a long stretch last year. He sat out the last 14 games last season, seeing his last playing time on Feb. 7 against the LSU Tigers.

Part of that was due to a back injury, but Wynyard ended up being suspended for a violation of team rules, which involved him going to on-campus parties with an armed bodyguard.

The New Zealand native is one of the best in his home country. He played for the U19 New Zealand Olympic team at the FIBA World Cup in Cairo, Egypt (which John Calipari coached Team USA in). He averaged 14.3 PPG and 9.3 RPG while shooting 60.6 percent in seven games.

Here are comments from John Calipari on Wynyard’s decision to transfer:

We haven’t had a lot of players transfer, but when a player comes to me and asks for a fresh start, I will always support them. We talk all the time about this being a new experience for our players, but I believe it was even tougher for Tai because of where he came from. To come to a new country in the middle of the season and try to carve out a role was difficult, but I’m proud of Tai for the person he’s grown into.

I know this decision wasn’t easy for him because he is just now starting to learn who he is and how he can contribute to a team. We are sad to see him go, but he has our full support and we will do whatever we can to make sure he can continue to pursue his dreams. That’s what this is all about here at Kentucky.

And here is what Wynyard had to say:

I want to thank everyone who has played a part in my two and a half years at Kentucky – everyone from the coaches to my teammates to the managers and the staff. Everyone played huge roles in my time here. I’ve been lucky enough to have gained experiences one could only hope to have in a lifetime. I’ve had the privilege of playing with and against some of the best talent in the country at Kentucky and my hope is to one day follow in their footsteps.

This decision wasn’t an easy one for me to make and I appreciate the commitment and support Coach Cal and the staff gave me in reaching it. My goals haven’t changed. After meeting with Cal, something that he always talks about is doing what’s best for the individual. Everyone is on a different path.

Although that path will be somewhere else, I’ll never forget this place. From day one, beginning with my first home game vs. Louisville in 2015, this place has shown me nothing but love. I want to thank you for your support. Kentucky will always hold a special place in my heart.