Q&A: Tai Wynyard looking to carve out bigger role entering sophomore year

Jeff Drummond, Managing Editor
Cats Illustrated

Sophomore center from New Zealand excelled with national team during its appearance in the FIBA U19 World Championships this summer.

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Cats Illustrated File Photo

On playing with New Zealand in the FIBU U19 World Championships this summer in Egypt...

"It definitely was a lot of fun, being able to play a lot of minutes and having a great time with my brothers from back home."

On what kind of feedback he got on his play this summer...

"(Coach Cal) got to come to one of my games and told me how I'm getting better... He said my body looks a lot better, that I've lost a lot of weight and my conditioning has gotten a lot better. We didn't see each other that much over there because of the different schedules, but he's always letting me know stuff like that."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Wynyard averaged 14.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game for the Kiwis in the U19s.

On what he has done to improve his physique and conditioning...

"Mostly the FIBA stuff. I had a lot of training back home, and I was doing a lot of individual work to get ready for that. I had something like 25 games over the summer leading up to the tournament, so I had a lot of work. We were going game, travel day, game, travel day, game for like 20 days. It was crazy, but it helped me."

On whether he has become more acclimated to the tempo of the American game...

"Definitely. The pickup games we've played, I can tell already that I've really improved with that."

On talking last season about how American food was a challenge...

"Yeah. It's still pretty hard. Being from New Zealand, we love food, but it's even harder here. I love the food. Me and Brad (Calipari) are always talking about eating, wanting to go to Canes or Cookout."

On maybe not being mistaken for an Australian now that former UK teammate Isaac Humphries has moved on to the pro ranks...

(Laughs) "Hopefully. It was getting a little bit annoying. 'New Zealand, eh? Is that part of Australia?' C'mon, man."

On what he enjoys most about being part of the UK program...

"Just hanging out with the guys in the lodge and goofing off, all the little jokes, those times when you just get to be a kid."

On being viewed as one of the older, more mature players now...

(Laughs) "I don't know about mature... I guess I need to fulfill that role this year. I can try to show people how to do the drills, having been here for a year or so."

On the challenge of finding consistent playing time at UK and speculation that he may transfer last season...

"I know it's all a learning thing for me. I just have to keep working, keep getting better. I know that I'll have my time to shine if I stick with it. You're always going to have some of the best talent in the world (at UK) and some of the best coaching in the world. Why would I want to leave unless I know that I could go pro straight away? Whenever I leave here, I want to be prepared for what's next."

On whether this is a good opportunity to carve out more playing time with so many young, unproven players on the roster...

"We'll have to see how it plays out. It's so early, nobody really knows how it's going to go. I just know that if I stay focused and keep working and gelling with the team, that kind of stuff, I'll have a chance."

On getting to know his new teammates...

"It's been good. They're all easy going."

On what preseason workouts have been like...

"Fun. Just learning all the new guys and how everybody plays, trying to figure out how to play with each other, how to feed off each other and mesh. It's been eye-opening."

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