By LARRY VAUGHT
Tai Wynyard wasn’t surprised when he was John Calipari’s first player off the bench in Kentucky’s win at Mississippi Thursday.
“They told me the day before in practice,” the Kentucky freshman said Monday. “Coach has been putting a lot of confidence in me during practice and stuff. He’s helping me a lot more now and I feel like I’m getting more of a chance.”
Wynyard admitted he was nervous against Ole Miss. But considering that was his first playing time in a game when it really mattered, that was understandable.
“Obviously sitting the whole time and just watching, you want to get out there and play. So just a little nervous. I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, grab as many rebounds, but that’s all good.”
Wynyard said knowing Calipari has more trust in him than he has had did help his confidence.
“I’m definitely a lot more physical this year. Working with Rob (Harris), getting my strength and conditioning a lot more so I’m feeling a lot better as a player and I’m obviously using my strength well down low and trying to get every rebound I can,” Wynyard said Monday. That’s the reason they want to put me in the game, is just to get every rebound. So that’s really what I’m going to try to focus on doing.”
He says Calipari wants more rebounding from his bigs and that is what he should do best.
“Just the fight and the effort. Obviously that’s my game, so I’m just trying to really push myself and just get every rebound and fight for everything,” Wynyard said. “I’ve been working hard and when you work hard you’re going to see results.”
Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said Calipari has made it clear other bigs have to rebound like Bam Adebayo.
“Obviously, not everybody is going to be Bam physically. But it’s not so much what Bam does physically as it is what he does mentally to approach the game every day. He is a wrecking ball on the basketball floor offensively and defensively. So, we’ve gotta get our other bigs, and Tai is one of those guys – he plays that same way,” Barbee said.
“Now it’s up to Tai, can he catch up to what we’re trying to do scheme-wise offensively and defensively so he’s not behind on the floor and hurts us in that way. What he does give us is a physical – another physical guy like Bam who throws his body around and goes after rebounds.”