"Growing up I was always fat and slow so, if you're going to play, you've got to be able to do something," Wyatt said. "I try to out-think them, try to pump fake. Can't blow by anybody, can't jump over them so you got to find a way to do something."
KU coach Bill Self was suitably impressed by Wyatt, calling what he saw on tape and at Allen Fieldhouse an "old man's game."
He absolutely meant it as a compliment.
"He gets you off-balance," Self said. "He's so good. When you have the green light and you have a lot of freedom, of course, you dare to make more plays and he does. [Temple coach] Fran [Dunphy] gives him a lot of freedom and confidence. He made some plays that you just don't see other people attempt. He certainly got us into foul trouble. We let him get off to a good start and that was a mistake."
All this from a player who as a Temple freshman from Norristown High played in exactly 10 games, got a total of 19 minutes and scored precisely five points. Dunphy gives away nothing. It has to be earned.
"He just didn't work hard enough," Dunphy said. "He had his own way of looking at the world. He and I didn't see eye to eye, we didn't think of the world in the same way . . . I had suggested to him on a number of occasions that he give to me five or six schools that he would like to transfer to."
He also told Wyatt: "I will call them and see if they are interested. I might even drive you. I'll deliver you because what you and I are getting here, it's just not working. For whatever reason, he figured it out."
Dunphy, if he is your coach, is an acquired taste. In contrast to his public persona, his practice persona is serious and demanding. He is politically incorrect. No detail is too small. It is why his teams have been so good for so long.
"He's a master motivator," Wyatt said. "Whatever button he can push to make you be the best that you can be, he's going to push it and he's going to keep pushing it until you get it."
Wyatt was not sure what to expect when he arrived at Temple. It took him a while to get the message, but he got it eventually.
"He doesn't care about anything you did in high school," Wyatt said. "You basically start from the bottom."
Calm and confident would be good words for Wyatt's game. Nerves, he said, have never been a problem. Not in Norristown youth leagues. Not in state playoffs in high school. Not at MSG and Allen. Not in the A-10 Tournament. Not in the NCAA Tournament.
When you review the box score from Temple's bizarre 2012 NCAA loss to South Florida, you will note that Wyatt had nearly half (19) of the Owls 44 points. He shot 5-for-13. His teammates shot 10-for-29.
His court presence is why he dealt with the noise and the moment so well last Sunday against Kansas on CBS. With his team trailing KU, 41-33, and barely 16 minutes left in the game, Wyatt went on a personal 11-point run, showing every aspect of his offensive game in just 2 minutes.
He nailed a three from the wing, buried three free throws after his patented pump fake lured his defender into making contact behind the arc in the corner, hit another wing three and then drove, took contact and made two free throws. When he was done Temple led 44-43 and KU's terrific defender Travis Releford was on the bench with four fouls. It was almost enough to get Temple, a 13-point underdog, home on a court where KU has won 99 of its last 100.
It was vintage Wyatt who went from afterthought to Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year to one of the league's best players last season. Thursday night, the Owls begin their final A-10 season at Xavier. They enter conference play in great shape for a sixth consecutive NCAA bid. But the league has never been better and Wyatt, who still watches a lot of basketball, knows it.
"It's the best it's been since I've been here," he said. "Some really good teams, some really good players."
Anymore, today's college players seem to have the weight of the world on them, worrying about what could go wrong, not considering what might go right. Wyatt does not have that problem. He plays with a smile for a very simple reason.
"You get a chance to go out there and do something you love to do for 2 hours," he said. "In those 2 hours, I try to have as much fun as I can."
Wyatt has not shot well this season except from the free-throw line where he has made 30 straight. His teammates have left a lot of points out there, too, as hardly anybody has shot it particularly well. Yet, Temple is 10-3 with that win over Syracuse and the near-miss at Kansas. If shots ever start falling, this goes from a smart team capable of playing with anybody to a dangerous team capable of beating anybody.
The free-throw streak is no fluke. With a manager retrieving, Wyatt made 54 straight one day. When the game moments get the biggest, it is no accident that Wyatt has the ball for Temple. He makes free throws. And he makes good decisions because he sees the game through very clear eyes.
"He's so unique," Dunphy said. "I've had some other [players] that saw it very well, but not in the same way that he views the game of basketball."
Still, seeing the game will get you just so far. At some point, you have to put in the work.
"It took him a while to earn the right [to get that freedom Self talked about]," Dunphy said. "It's not the way life works. You got to earn something and he had not earned it. The guy who knew it the most was Khalif Wyatt and that's the reason why he didn't choose to go anywhere else."
Wyatt worked at it. He earned the minutes. He earned the trust that allowed him to use those gifts.
"I can't take away his creativity because he's as creative as anybody out there," Dunphy said. "I want him to be creative, but I always want him to have earned that right. He's done that."