LEXINGTON, Ky. – Who is that masked man? Oh, it’s just Kentucky’s redshirt freshman power forward, Tai Wynyard. Or is it?
“I wanted to get a black one so I could be like, ‘I’m Batman!’ running out there with wings and stuff,” Wynyard said Sunday night after his most productive game (it’s a very small sample size) for the Wildcats. “They didn’t let me. They think I can’t see through it, but I can’t even see through it with a see-through one, so I don’t know why they did that. But it’s pretty cool. I wish I could have a black one.”
Wearing his (sadly) clear protective mask – necessary after suffering a facial fracture in preseason practice – Wynyard delivered 10 points, four rebounds, two blocks, a steal and an assist in just 11 minutes of Kentucky’s ridiculous 156-63 exhibition victory over Asbury. It was just his second game action since joining the team last December as a midyear enrollee.
He had six points and three rebounds in nine minutes against Clarion last week.
“It’s a lot of fun being able to play and be a part of the team finally,” said the 6-foot-10, 254-pound Wynyard, a New Zealand native. “Having that injury early on really sucked. But coming back, it made me want it even more. Being able to get on the court for the little time I did today was a lot of fun.”
It was a long wait after redshirting the second half of last season and missing his first two chances to play in front of the Rupp Arena crowd this year – Big Blue Madness and the Blue-White scrimmage – because of that injury. But he’s healing quickly and when the season starts Friday, Wynyard might be out of the mask.
While it makes him look a little more intimidating, if it can’t be a Batman get-up, he’s ready to be rid of it.
“It’s annoying,” Wynyard said. “Can’t even see anything and you’re just running around. It’s just like a big brick in your face.”
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Kentucky coach John Calipari has an embarrassment of riches in the frontcourt with 5-star freshman forwards Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones, plus 6-9 senior Derek Willis and 7-foot sophomore Isaac Humphries. But Wynyard is trying to scratch out a role.
“I’m playing a lot better than I was, and being able to come to Kentucky is just – it’s a lot of fun being able to play against such great basketball players, big men,” he said. “I’m just going to go in there and work hard and just try to get every rebound, put everything back and get garbage buckets. That’s pretty much what I do.”