Nigel Hayes had a great freshman season providing quality minutes for Bo Ryan and helping the Wisconsin Badgers reach the Final Four for the first time since 2000. After being a relatively unknown recruit who flew under the radar, Hayes made a name for himself last season. So much so that Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News has Hayes number eight in his top 10 power forwards in the country.
Hayes averaged 7.7 points and 2.8 rebounds per game a year ago coming off the bench. His best game came in his first taste of Big Ten action against the Northwestern Wildcats. There Hayes scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds in a 76-49 victory. Twelve different times Nigel scored in double figures, including 10 in the Sweet Sixteen against Baylor.
The Badgers will be facing some very high expectations this upcoming season and Hayes will be a player that coach Ryan will need to lean on if they want to reach the Final Four once again. There’s no doubt in my mind that he is up for the challenge.
With Wisconsin losing just one starter (Ben Brust) from last year’s team, this team is more than poised to make another amazing run. Will Hayes vault into the starting role? Time will tell, but he is a very viable candidate for that position. He’s a talented ball handler and defender and has such a sweet shot. I don’t know how many times last season I commented on just how great of a shooter Hayes was.
There’s not much that Hayes really has to improve on. I’d like to see his rebounds go up this season, but I don’t think that will be a problem. Nigel is deserving of being in the discussion as a top ten power forward. Not bad for a guy who seemed to go unnoticed during recruiting.