At 21, Tai Wynyard already has more basketball experiences than most players earn in a lifetime. He’s represented his country, played college hoops for Kentucky and been part of the New Zealand Breakers.
Now Invercargill has been stamped in his basketball passport with the talented 2.08m centre starting his comeback from a frustrating injury-plagued year as part of the SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks for the 2019 Sal’s National Basketball League.
“The Sharks are known for really good management and they put such great support around the team. The fans are incredible. I remember coming down and playing for (Supercity) Rangers and having a packed-out stadium every week will be fun. And they know how to win Championships down here,” Wynyard said.
“Juddy (Sharks Head Coach Judd Flavell) was great for me when I was younger. When I was first getting into it at 14 or 15, he got me in, made me work and made me better. So, when he hit me up, I jumped at the chance to come down here to get healthy and to get better again,”
“I want to get healthy, get out there and contribute. It’s small steps for me having been out for a year now, but I’m loving getting the gears grinding again and getting back into it,” he said.
It’s that positive mindset that has excited Coach Flavell.
“I love that he’s looking to find his passion for the game and like everyone that comes down here, we take them from one level and try to propel them on to the next stage. Tai is no different in that regard and I’m really excited to get stuck in with him down here.”
“Before the first training I got the guys to sit down, talk about where they are at and why they are here. Everybody has a journey that they are on, but everybody is on a slightly different path. That path has put everybody in Invercargill with the Southland Sharks and it’s good to share that. Just like everyone else, we want to help Tai get to where he wants to go. That will be great for him as a player and for our programme this year,” Flavell said.
Wynyard will debut in his new colours alongside fellow Sharks’ off-season recruits Dom Kelman-Poto and Hyrum Harris, against Otago in the annual pre-season battle for the ILT Challenge Shield this Sunday afternoon at ILT Stadium Southland from 1pm. Entry is free.
The Sharks Australian contingent of Jarrad Weeks, Mitch McCarron and Todd Blanchfield, together with Tall Black Alex Pledger, arrive in the south from next week as the squad gears up to open their title defence at home on Sunday 14 April at 2pm against the Canterbury Rams.
Season tickets, including a special 10-year Anniversary VIP pass, are available now from ILT Stadium Southland. For more information visit www.sharksbasketball.co.nz/tickets.