Tall Blacks rookie Tai Wynyard ready for more
Nenad Vucinic had to call his name twice before it registered.
Tai Wynyard heard the coach call his name the first time, but nerves had frozen him over.
He couldn't believe it.
The second time Vucinic called, Wynyard looked up, fought back those nerves, took off his warm up shirt and ran on to the court.
Thirty seconds later Wynyard had his first points for the Tall Blacks, a well-executed lay-up with his first touch of the ball, and those nerves were swatted back to the bench.
"I can do this," Wynyard remembers thinking.
"I'm 16, I've got my first touch for the Tall Blacks in the first 30 seconds and I put it straight in the basket.
"This is the best moment of my life."
From then on, Wynyard could relax and get into his work, as the Tall Blacks cruised to a 102-69 victory in Wellington.
Before the match Wynyard was expected to get few minutes, if any, in the Tall Blacks 12-man rotation during the series against South Korea.
The Koreans are known for their speed and their dead-eye shooting.
That Korea didn't show up, so Wynyard got more time on the court than he had ever imagined.
Six points, five boards, and an assist later, Wynyard was on cloud nine.
"Once I realised I could play with men, I just let loose.
"I was pretty stoked with that stat line especially for my age and being my debut."
The whole Tall Blacks experience is still a daze for Wynyard.
He said he had noticed huge improvement in his game in just a week with the Tall Blacks squad, learning from big names and "older guys", like Kirk Penney, Mika Vukona and Tom Abercrombie.
Penney had his first taste of national league basketball before Wynyard was born, debuting for the North Harbour Kings in 1997.
When Wynyard was born, the No 1 song on the radio was Dr Jones, by Aqua. When Penney was born it was Super Trouper, by Abba.
These guys are definitely from different generations.
"I'm learning so much from them. I actually can't believe how much better I am now then I was a week ago.
"I don't want it to stop now. I feel like I get better and better every day."
Wynyard is a long shot to make the Tall Blacks squad for the World Champs in Spain, but that won't stop him giving it his all.
Korea are expected to bounce back in Tauranga tonight, which could see Wynyard's minutes cut back or he could miss the squad completely.
If he gets on court, he's prepared to do all he can to convince Vucinic to send a return ticket to Spain in his direction.
"Now that my debut is out of the way, I'm going to give it all I've got if I'm picked to go on court again," Wynyard said.
"If I do get out there, I'm going to give it hell, man. I'll do everything I can to get a trip to Spain."
The second test between the Tall Blacks and Korea tips off at 7.40pm tonight at ASB Arena, Tauranga.
- Waikato Times
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