John Calipari's latest recruiting guest came an awfully long way to get here.
New Zealand basketball prospect Tai Wynyard was met by UK assistant coaches Kenny Payne and Barry "Slice" Rohrssen at the Lexington airport Sunday morning. Wynyard will be in town over the next few days to check out UK's campus as part of a one-week recruiting tour in the United States.
The 6-foot-9 post player is still 16 years old and is expected to be part of the college recruiting class of 2016. He'll attend UK's home game against Missouri on Tuesday night and then visit Villanova and Texas later in the week.
This isn't the first trip to the United States for Wynyard, who played in the Jordan Brand Classic international game in Brooklyn last April.
DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony evaluated Wynyard in the practices leading up to that showcase, and he has also seen the young prospect in his workouts with the New Zealand Breakers professional team.
"He is a big, strong kid," Givony told the Herald-Leader. "He's very, very mature physically for his age — has really filled out. A lot of European players, people usually think about them as being skinny. He is thick. And he uses that to his advantage. He can go inside and just bully people — he can punish them around the rim because he's so big and strong. And he's also a big-time competitor. He's a hustler."
Skill-wise, Givony compared Wynyard to a player who turned into one of the key cogs on UK's Final Four team in 2011.
"He has good hands and good touch around the basket," he said. "He's not really an athlete, he's not really explosive. ... He's a rebounder, he's an inside guy, he's a banger. He's about like what Josh Harrellson was before he started shooting threes. Something like that."
Wynyard had two points and one rebound at the Jordan Brand game, fouling out in just 11 minutes on the court.
Givony noted that Wynyard hadn't matched up with many players his own size up until that point in his career and likely had a tough time adjusting to opponents that were just as big and strong.
That shouldn't be a problem moving forward.
Wynyard has been working out with the New Zealand Breakers this season, a professional team that includes former University of Maryland standout Ekene Ibekwe and a few others who have experience playing for the New Zealand national team.
An international player being recruited by Kentucky while a member of a professional team will no doubt give some UK fans pause, but Givony explained that Wynyard's situation with the Breakers is "completely different" than Enes Kanter's run with Fenerbahçe in Turkey.
Kanter was a highly touted recruit who signed with UK after playing for the Turkish professional club and ultimately was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for being paid to play while in Turkey.
Wynyard is still an amateur who does not get paid and does not even travel with the Breakers. He practices with the team and sits on the bench during home games.
"He's been on the college track from a very early age," Givony said. "He's not going to have any eligibility issues whatsoever."
Givony added that it was clear from the beginning to those who followed international basketball that Kanter was "never going to play one second" of college basketball due to his affiliation with Fenerbahçe, which did not support his move to America.
Wynyard is treated more like a junior member of the Breakers, who have also been diligent in making sure he's correctly following the steps that will allow him to play college basketball in the States.
"The Breakers — that's like his family," Givony said. "When he finishes (college), he might go play for them as a pro. They're very, very supportive of their young kids. And for them it's a matter of pride. If their young development guy can go play at Kentucky — or anywhere else in college basketball — that's just like a huge win for them, and they're going to be supportive."