When Nigel Hayes made the decision to come to Wisconsin, and abort all plans of becoming part of an in-state, Ohio State Buckeye tradition, many here in Wisconsin thought it was news on the other side of the front page.
Big deal. Another recruit, another Big Ten school, same old story on another side of the daily sports pages.
Not so anymore.
Wisconsin’s chances of a National Championship lie in the hands of players like Hayes, who’s athletic ability and composure fits well against the mold that is Kentucky basketball.
Hayes’ best weapon against John Calipari’s team might be his athleticism, however, his willingness to fit into the Wisconsin style of play has earned him the respect of his coach, Bo Ryan, and his peers.
All of them have to sometimes wonder what might have been this season, a year where Ryan has rarely reached past eight players deep, had Hayes decided to stick with his pressure from the Ohio faithful and likely red-shirted with the Buckeyes.
Instead, he’ll be a key piece to the Championship puzzle for the Badgers, beginning again Saturday.
As a lifetime Toledo, Ohio native, Hayes grew up much like teammates Josh Gasser and Sam Dekker; idealizing in-state powers at each ones respective state college.
Hayes now has had plenty of time to settle in to his surrounding in the Badger state, and in doing so has inspired a few onlookers from the Badgers faithful into seeing how much of a future the 6-7, 250 pound forward has in front of him.
With his ability to face-up defenders and become a shooter, he’s shown range and the capability to knock down shots with ease and even consistency.
Hayes is good enough now to score on his own in the low post.
He can spin-off his defender in the post or score some over his left shoulder – either or, we’ve seen how much of a mismatch the man can be, and more importantly, how much of a valued commodity he’ll be over the next one, possibly two games en route to a second NCAA Championship for the Wisconsin Badgers.