All of Big Blue Nation was anxious to tune into the FIBA U19 World Cup. They were expecting to see some UK Players and recruits perform on a big stage. What BBN likely did not expect, was that one of the more impressive performances would be New Zealand’s Tai Wynyard.
Wynyard came to UK as an unheralded recruit, almost seemingly out of nowhere in fact. Kentucky fans are used to Coach Cal getting kids that are nearly household names and have been hyped since seemingly birth. Now, that does not meet Wynyard was some random player from New Zealand. He was rated a four-star recruit and had offers from Villanova and Texas.
Wynyard has had a little over 1 full year at UK, and the 19-year-old has not exactly made his presence known… yet. However, Wynyard has a large opportunity in front of him. Kentucky unexpectedly lost an improving Isaac Humphries. Cal then missed out on his top big-man prospect in Mo Bamba.
This leaves Kentucky in a state of roster flux of incoming freshman. Kentucky is loaded with talented 6’6″ to 6’9″ athletic slashers, but only one true big man in Nick Richards. True big men take a bit of time to get acclimated to the college game. Take Dakari Johnson for example. My point is that Kentucky may have a dominant big man in Richards, but they may also have to rely on Tai Wynyard and Sacha Killeya-Jones to step up early.
If Wynyard is able to step up and fill the void left by Humphries and the missed opportunity at Bamba, it would put Kentucky into a different level of contender.
Wynyard came to Egypt to play, he was unable to lead New Zealand deep into the tournament but he did lead the team.
Was a fun tournament! Now onto Kentucky 😤 Excited for the season ✊🏽 #BBN
— Tai Wynyard (@WynyardTai) July 9, 2017
As you can see above, Wynyard got stronger as the tournament went on. He scored in double figures in 6 of 7 games and finished with three consecutive double-doubles. He was also a stat sheet stuffer the final 2 games adding in blocks and assists.
Wynyard nearly averaged a double-double for the tournament and was an eye-popping PLUS-60 for the tournament on efficiency.
In fact, Tai Wynyard was one of the more efficient players in the entire tournament according to Synergy Sports Tech.
— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) July 6, 2017
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR UK
Only time will tell whether or not this performance catapults Wynyard into a significant contributor in 2017-18.
What this did accomplish, however, is proof that Tai Wynyard can compete and excel on a big stage. He can dominate lesser competition, and he has an ability that BBN would love to see at Rupp Arena this fall.
Kentucky is about to field its youngest team ever under Calipari. Having a ‘veteran’ like Wynyard stepping up and filling a void to become a significant cog in the wheel is not just desired by BBN, it is very much a possibility.