Former NZ basketball prodigy making most of second chance

Source: 1News

The Commonwealth Games debut of three-by-three basketball is set to provide a fresh start for a Kiwi athlete who a few years ago was seen as one of our brightest young talents in the sport.

Tai Wynyard was a schoolboy sensation, signing a deal with a top American university but over the past few years, the fairytale faltered.

Back in 2015, Wynyard signed a scholarship with basketball heavyweights the University of Kentucky.

Kentucky currently has 28 alumni in the NBA including the likes of all stars Anthony Davis, Devin Booker and Karl-Anthony Towns - and Wynyard was hoping to be among them.

But three years after joining the Wildcats, Wynyard was dumped following an incident involving someone with a gun at a party - something he says was blown out of proportion.

Regardless, it changed everything.

“I didn't really enjoy basketball anymore and I kind of stopped playing for about two years,” Wynyard told 1News.

“I put on a lot of weight.”

Tai Wynyard competing in the 2020 NBL.

As such, a different-looking player took to the court for the 2020 NBL showdown but he's spent the past two years getting back in shape, motivated mainly by the birth of his son.

“As soon as I laid eyes on him I promised to myself and him I need to do this for us so that I can be a proper role model to him,” he said.

“I didn't want to be the person I was those last two years after college.”

After competing at Tuesday’s selections for New Zealand’s 3X3 teams, the chance to represent New Zealand at this year's Commonwealth Games could be a special pay off.

But Wynyard isn’t getting ahead of himself.

“I’m just glad to be back in a position where I can enjoy the game again instead of going up and down and [getting exhausted].”

The 24-year-old said he also wants to support others who may be struggling in the college system.

“People sit back in New Zealand thinking, ‘oh yeah, flower and roses, he's gone to a college over in the States’, and really it's a lot harder than you think.”

Luckily it wasn't all bad with the experience now a key part of his story as he looks to add another chapter in Birmingham.