UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball’s Tai Wynyard seeking 2nd straight FIBA 3-on-3 title

Kentucky’s Tai Wynyard, right, and the rest of the bench cheered after a dunk by Jamal Murray during their game against South Carolina on Feb. 13. UK won 89-62.
Kentucky’s Tai Wynyard, right, and the rest of the bench cheered after a dunk by Jamal Murray during their game against South Carolina on Feb. 13. UK won 89-62. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Kentucky men’s basketball freshman forward Tai Wynyard will represent New Zealand in the FIBA 3-on-3 U18 World Championships this week for a second consecutive year after leading his home country to the gold medal in 2015.

After dropping their opener last year, Wynyard led the Kiwis to eight straight wins, the championship and MVP honors.

“I will bring dunks, hard work, hakas and constant excitement no matter on and off the court,” he said in a report on FIBA.com. (A haka is a traditional war dance of the Maori people of New Zealand.)

Wynyard, a native of Auckland, New Zealand, enrolled at Kentucky in December after graduating from Rangitoto College. He became the youngest player ever to make the New Zealand national team when he was named to the squad at 16 years old. He did not appear in any games during the 2015-16 Kentucky basketball season.

“I learned so much, from physical to mental, at Kentucky this season,” he said in the FIBA report. “Being around some of the best players in college basketball is great for the development of my game and learning. John Calipari is just an amazing coach.”

This year’s 3-on-3 tournament will begin Wednesday in Astana, Kazakhstan. Wynyard’s team begins group play Thursday against the Philippines in pool play.

The top two teams from each of the four pools will advance to the eight-team knockout tournament, scheduled for Sunday.

“I am definitely confident in myself to lead the team this year but it’s not a one-man-show,” Wynyard said. “We all need to show up.”

Fans can watch Wynyard and the entire FIBA 3-on-3 U18 World Championships on FIBA’s 3x3 YouTube page.

New Zealand’s schedule for pool play (all times Eastern) includes Philippines, 8:10 a.m. Thursday; Spain, 10:20 a.m. Thursday; Hungary, 7:30 a.m. Saturday; and Brazil, 9:40 a.m. Saturday.

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