James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Teen aims high on basketball trip to US

Tai Wynyard said he thought his parents were joking when they told him he was off to the Jordan Brand Classic. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Tai Wynyard said he thought his parents were joking when they told him he was off to the Jordan Brand Classic. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Rangitoto College student Tai Wynyard is off to New York City where he will meet arguably the greatest basketballer in history before playing in front of thousands of fans.

The young basketballer was to have headed for the Australian State Championshipsin Canberra with his New Zealand U18 team-mates but instead leaves on Monday for the US after he received a rare offer to attend the 13th annual Jordan Brand Classic (JBC).

The JBC is an invitation-only event for some of the best young basketballers on the planet.

The 16-year-old centre or power forward, who stands 2.04m, will play in the curtain-raiser international fixture made up of talented high school players selected from around the globe.

He will also get to meet legend Michael Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles in the 1990s.

Wynyard said he thought his parents were pulling his leg when he found out he was going.

"I just couldn't believe it, I really thought they were joking me but it's real and I'm going. I'm going to meet Michael Jordan so I'm excited ... who wouldn't be?"

The Year 12 student will attend a training camp while there and says he is out to impress scouts with a goal to further his education and court time with an American college side.

Wynyard has both sporting and tall genes. His mum Karmyn and dad Jason are both highly decorated timber sports champions and both stand more than 1.9m.

Basketball is also in the blood, with Karmyn playing in the NCAA on a scholarship from her Anchorage base about 20 years ago.

Basketball New Zealand marketing project manager Marija Vidovich said the Breakers franchise put Wynyard's name forward for the JBC.

- NZ Herald

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