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Sky high skills
Height matters when it comes to basketball.
But that's never been a problem for Tai Wynyard.
The 14-year-old from Massey is already a staggering 2m tall and is fast growing into his size 18 sneakers. Now Tai's future is also on the up and the Waitakere under-15s centre is grabbing the attention of the New Zealand Breakers' coaching staff.
Tai was called into the initial basketball development camp two years ago and his determination is leading to bigger things.
"I was staying longer after hours at the academy and was given a few drills to work on then recently I got handed a singlet and was asked to join in for training with the Breakers. I was really nervous and didn't want to at first but all the players have been really helpful," he says.
"It's really hard, they're at such a high level. But it has been inspiring and I definitely want to play for them one day."
Tai attends Rangitoto College and has been playing basketball for only four years.
He's broken into Waitakere West Auckland age group sides along the way and was part of an impressive finals turnout for the under-15s as they defended their national title last year.
He is also preparing with the 16-and-under New Zealand Academy side heading to Las Vegas in July.
Breakers assistant coach and development academy head coach Judd Flavell says it was important to catch Tai at a young age.
"Tai's size and genetics will be a big factor in the future, you don't see too many 14-year-olds at 2m with his mobility and footwork.
"I kept my eye on him and his individual drills and he kept showing up very early in the morning. That's a great testament to his parents who get up to bring him over to the Shore.
"We've got a big wave of home-grown talent coming through off the back of the Breakers' recent success and the message is: you don't have to go to the USA to get top coaching," Mr Flavell says.
Tai has a long road ahead but has no problems receiving fitness training from his father, world champion woodchopper Jason Wynyard. "Dad's my motivation and he's helped me with my fitness.
"We used to go down to the Douglas Track and Field, put parachutes on and run 100m sprints. He's a lot fitter than I am and it was hard training. I might have hid the parachute in the meantime."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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