Tai Wynyard has made his team's intentions clear- the Junior Tall Blacks are out to win the FIBA U-19 World Championships in Egypt in July. Coach Daryl Cartwright is happy to have the 2-metre tall forward, who has already represented the Tall Blacks side.
The Junior Tall Blacks assembled over the weekend at Mount Albert Grammar School in Auckland where they look a completely different team since defeating Australia in Fiji last year.
Wynyard (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāpuhi, Tainui) says, "Everything we do right now is to win, that's all we're trying to focus on right now. Anything else, doing well, we're not going over there just to do well, we're going over there to win."
When New Zealand defeated Australia in Suva, Wynyard was with fellow Kentucky team-mate Isaac Humphries who was also unavailable to play for the Emu's in the Oceania tournament last year due to NCA Basketball commitments.
“I ran into [Humphries] room and said 'look at this, we beat you' and was talking smack to him because he was telling me how he was going to win. I was really happy with it.”
Wynyard's time at the Kentucky Wildcats sees him as one of the senior leaders for the Junior Tall Blacks, however, there is no added expectation on the former Rangitoto College student from Coach Daryl Cartwright.
“That's a big difference getting that size, strength and also his experience and leadership that he's gained from being in Kentucky,” says Cartwright.
When former Tall Black Paora Winitana retired, he handed the cultural responsibility over to Wynyard which is an opportunity he has graasped with both hands.
“It's a huge thing to have on your shoulders. All that pride, that New Zealand pride and that mana and everything you know,” says Wynyard.
The Junior Tall Blacks have warm-up games against China, Lithuania, and an American All-Star College team before departing for Egypt in July.