Nigel Hayes would officially have me terrified if I’m a Badger fan. Not because he clearly wants to go to the NBA rather than return to Madison, as indicated by what he “jokingly” told the Celtics in a recent interview. No…because of this:
“In college I was always looked at as a four who could shoot,” said Hayes. “And now I’m trying to show I’m a guard who can post, and be that two-through-four interchangeable part because, again, the trend now in the NBA is finding guys who, ironically, are basketball players. And do a lot, and do more than one thing.”
A “guard who can post,” huh, Nigel? No. No, no, no, no, no. That is not what you are.
I was a big, big fan of his game during his first two seasons in Madison. Thought he was a JV version of Day Day in some ways…a really, really smart player who saw the game better than most and used his intelligence and strength and better-than-advertised skill set to be a really productive player. Last year, though, I thought he took a nose dive, even though his individual cumulative numbers went up. He shot terribly, in large part due to poor shot selection (and also some team related stuff which wasn’t his fault and hurt him early in the season). I thought his decision making in general declined. Now, when he starts talking about being a “guard who can post,” that tells me that maybe he didn’t learn the right lessons from last season.
Greg Gard is going to get another stiff test. He passed the first one with flying colors and I think he’s got a bright future, but this is going to be a challenge. Hayes is a smart, funny, personable kid but we started to see some flaws last year (the comments about DD after the first game being just one example, one which he paid for later in the year). The fact that he hasn’t yet pulled out of the draft despite every indication given by NBA people that he should go back is telling. However, the biggest issue is going to be how he plays if/when he *does* decide to return. Nigel Hayes is a versatile forward, ideally a power forward at the collegiate level. You can run offense through him, he can hit threes (though the shot selection has to get much better…he went from 40% as a soph to 29% last year from three), but he needs to play intelligent basketball and that means he needs to get his ass to the blocks and in the paint more often than not. If he comes back thinking he’s got some things to prove to the NBA, that could easily be counter-productive to Wisconsin’s team goals. They need Hayes to be the smart, focused player he was as a sophomore.