For the time being, New Zealand basketball standout Tai Wynyard is committed to play for the University of Kentucky as a member of the class of 2016.
That could change in the coming months.
Wynyard was in Colorado last weekend to prepare for the upcoming FIBA 3-on-3 world championships, his second trip to the United States this spring.
The first visit was in early April, when he traveled to Portland, Ore., to compete in the Nike Hoop Summit. At that time, he said he was almost certain that he would not enroll at UK until next summer, despite rumors that he could join the Wildcats in December and play the second half of the upcoming 2015-16 season.
He changed his tune over the weekend.
"It's become more of a possibility for me now," Wynyard said of a possible December enrollment.
That comment came in an interview with DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony, who scouted Wynyard before his commitment to Kentucky and has seen him play during both of his recent visits to the States.
Wynyard — a 6-foot-10 prospect — weighed in at 263 pounds at the Nike Hoop Summit, where he struggled at times against elite post players such as Kansas signee Cheick Diallo.
Less than two months later, the UK commitment showed up in Colorado looking like a different player. He has dropped about 10 pounds through an improved diet and workout routine, and that's resulted in better mobility on the court.
"He told me that the Hoop Summit was a little bit of a wake-up call for him, and he needed to do a better job of getting his body to its full potential so, athletically, he's not held back by that," Givony told the Herald-Leader. "I think the thing that helped him out the most was the level of competition. It was something that he'd never faced before.
"He's always been able to get by just by bullying people. So a lot of his moves, they just didn't really work at the Hoop Summit. He's figured that out, and I think he knows he's going to have to expand his game, which is a great thing for a kid that age — to be able to get that kind of feedback."
Givony said he also expects Wynyard to benefit from his experience with the New Zealand 3-on-3 team, which plays in the FIBA world championships in Hungary starting Thursday.
That's a wide-open brand of basketball that should further help Wynyard with his mobility and conditioning. It'll also give him a chance to work on his offensive game, particularly posting up opponents in one-on-one situations.
And it'll be another step in preparing him for his future as a Kentucky Wildcat.
Wynyard sounded optimistic over the weekend that he could indeed join the team in December. That will hinge on him completing his high school coursework in New Zealand earlier than expected, and he said he also hopes to get his body in better shape before starting his college career.
If he checks those two boxes, UK will have a mid-season addition.
If it happens, UK fans should temper their expectations.
Wynyard just turned 17 in February, so he'd be at least a year younger than most college players if he enrolls in December. He'll also have to adjust to the American style of play.
Givony compared the situation to what Ukrainian guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk went through during his freshman year at Kansas this past season.
Mykhailiuk — a highly touted prospect — turned 17 last June, enrolled at KU and averaged 2.8 points in 11.2 minutes per game.
Those numbers are not representative of his perceived talent — he's still projected by DraftExpress to be the No. 15 overall pick in next year's NBA Draft.
"I think it's smart to keep the expectations realistic," Givony said of Wynyard. "They have Skal (Labissiere), they have Marcus Lee, they have Alex Poythress. So they don't really need him to do much more than play a backup role. Someone gets in foul trouble, play five minutes here, five minutes there.
"It's going to be a learning curve for him."
Wynyard is aware of that.
"I think he understands that he picked a school that is the cream of the crop," Givony said. "If he wanted to go and be the man somewhere, I think he would have gone to a smaller school. He knows what Kentucky is. He's going to want to carve out a niche for himself, but he sounded very, very realistic about how much work it's going to take.
"He's just going to have to go out and prove it."