Tai Wynyard’s father, Jason, was visiting his son at Kentucky this week. Teammate Derek Willis drew an immediate conclusion about heredity.
When a reporter said Jason Wynyard was a big man, Willis said, “I can see where (Tai) gets it from.”
The younger Wynyard, who is 6-foot-10, said Kentucky made an impression on his father. Of course, father and son are from New Zealand, where our winter is their summer.
“He said it’s cold,” Wynyard said of his father. “He said it’s pretty cool.”
Wynyard’s father attended Kentucky’s victory over Georgia on Tuesday. It made a strong impression, too.
“The first game he came to was the overtime one,” Wynyard said. “He just said how crazy it was and how much fun he had.”
His father has offered him a piece of non-basketball advice.
“He said to just make sure I’m having fun,” Wynyard said. “Just keep having fun and work hard and just become the best player I can be. That kind of stuff.”
Yes, Wynyard said, he is having fun. “Yeah, I’m definitely having fun,” he said.
The elder Wynyard was not going to Florida for Saturday’s game.
“No, he’s leaving tomorrow, actually,” Wynyard said. “So that kind of sucks, but he came for like three days and just left.”
As is typical for parental visits to college, the elder Wynyard brought his son a care package.
“He brought some Tim Tams and some different chocolates and stuff from New Zealand,” Wynyard said. “So it’s not very good. I have a lot of snacks up in my room now I’m going to have to finish off.”
Assistant coach Joel Justus saluted Wynyard’s approach to basketball.
“He goes to work every day,” Justus said. “He has a good attitude. He has a competitive spirit you must have here. No. 1, to survive, and No. 2, to excel.
“If you come with that attitude, you’re going to get better.”
Of course, the opposite can be true, too.
“When you reject the process at times, you might go backward. And even if you’re not going backward, those around you are going forward.
“And I think Tai has embraced it, and it’s tough. You have to tip your hat to him.”
Kentucky has won its last two games in Gainesville. But Willis recalled what was then called the O’Connell Center as a difficult place to play.
“I would say it’s probably the hardest environment to play in,” he said. “The fans are right on top of you.”
In describing the bench location and proximity of the first row of seats, Willis held his hands about a foot apart.
“With ‘College GameDay,’ that’s going to make it that much tougher,” Willis said.
Justus downplayed the importance of the fans in making what Florida now calls Exactech Arena a good homecourt.
“It’s a tough place to play because of the guys in the uniform,” Justus said. “That has a little more to do with it than fans.”
Florida Coach Mike White echoed comments made by other opponents: Defending Malik Monk is not easy.
Monk, the SEC’s leading scorer, can make shots even if the defense is good.
“We just have to make sure that every (shot) is contested,” White said. “And make everything he does, make it hard. . . .
“We also know that’s he’s going to make some hard ones. He’s got the ability to do that, and we can’t get discouraged. We’ve got to stay the course.”
Willis did not know that Florida has a player who shoots free throws underhanded. He chose neutrality about that unusual style of shooting.
“If it goes in, it goes in,” he said.
Canyon Barry leads the Gators with 88.2-percent accuracy from the foul line. He has made 75 of 85 free throws, the last 27 in a row. His last miss was Jan. 7 against Tennessee.
Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and sideline reporter Maria Taylor will call the game for ESPN.