Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bo Ryan knows all to well that one of the key factors to winning a Big Ten title is getting quality minutes from your bench players. Luckily for Ryan freshman Nigel Hayes has been a key contributor coming off the bench.
The numbers Hayes puts up will not jump out at you, averaging 6.8 points per game and 2.5 rebounds per game, but it’s what he has done that doesn’t necessarily show up on a stat sheet that has him opening eyes around the conference.
Hayes is averaging just over 15 minutes a game and is making his time on the floor count. Whether it’s him giving junior Frank Kaminsky some well needed rest or coming on the court because someone is in foul trouble, Hayes has definitely earned as much trust as a freshman can in the eyes of his head coach.
So far this season, Nigel Hayes has shown that he is able to hold his own in Big Ten play. When Kaminsky had to sit out due to early foul trouble, Hayes came in and played superb defense against Purdue center A.J. Hammons. Nigel only scored two points that game but it was his defense that made the difference.
In his first ever Big Ten game, Hayes put up 19 points and grabbed six rebounds against the Northwestern Wildcats. Yes I understand it’s only Northwestern, but not too shabby for a freshman playing in the toughest conference in the nation.
Being a freshman there are obviously growing pains that Hayes will have to endure. The offense is there, it just needs more polishing and that will all come with more experience and more playing time he sees. Same goes with the defensive end of the floor, at times he shows flashes of being a shutdown player but then will make freshman-type mistakes.
There’s no doubt that Bo Ryan sees something special in the freshman and there’s a reason why Hayes is usually the first player off the bench. With more playing time comes more experience which in turn means Hayes will only improve as time goes on. Already 20 games into the season and Hayes has shown great strides as a freshman.