Wisconsin Basketball: Nigel Hayes Made the Right Decision to Stay at Wisconsin


Nigel Hayes made the right decision to return to the Wisconsin basketball team

When the Wisconsin basketball team takes the court for their season opener in 2016, they’ll do so with senior Nigel Hayes on the floor.

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Hayes, who declared for the NBA Draft earlier this spring, didn’t hire an agent so he retained the right to withdraw from the draft within 10 days of completion of the NBA Combine.

He made the decision on Tuesday, the day before his deadline, to return to the Badgers for his senior season.

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He made the right choice.

Without Hayes, the Badgers still would have been one of the better teams in the Big Ten this season. With him, Wisconsin is potentially one of the best teams in the entire country.

The Badgers will return their top nine scorers from last season and bring back the entire rotation, as well as adding a couple of players in the redshirted Brevin Pritzl and the NCAA-ruled ineligible Andy Van Vliet.

Along with Hayes, the starting five of Bronson Koenig, Ethan Happ, Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown all return, as well as key backups from a year ago in Khalil Iverson, Jordan Hill, Alex Illikainen and Charlie Thomas.

Those young players will be a year older and more experienced and former first-year starters Happ, Schowalter and Brown will enter the season as established starters looking to build on strong seasons last year.

The Badgers were just finding their way under interim coach Greg Gard midway through the season last year before they reeled off an impressive win streak and a Sweet 16 tournament run.

Wisconsin surprised many by being competitive with such a young roster, and now that the group has more experience, they should be a team to watch out for in 2016.

Hayes will be the glue that holds it all together.

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He’s strong in all facets of the game – scoring, rebounding, passing, and defense, and is the heart of the Badgers team.

Coming back for his senior year will not only be good for the Badgers, it will be good for Hayes’ draft prospects next season.

As Tom Oates suggested earlier this week in the Wisconsin State Journal, Hayes should only have stayed in the draft if he received a promise from an NBA team that they would draft him.

Even if he had received that promise, Hayes would have been a second round draft pick, and the track record isn’t great for second-rounders.

Sure, every once in a while a second rounder becomes a star. But the line skews closer towards no-name players who are D-league lifers than bona-fide stars like Draymond Green and Marc Gasol.

The best part of Hayes’ decision was that during the combine and draft process, he was able to communicate with NBA teams and scouts and get feedback.

Hayes knows he needs to improve his play from out on the wing and knows he must become a better shooter. He commented to the Boston Celtics that he’d shoot 5,000 shots a day if they drafted him.

Even if the comment wasn’t entirely serious, Hayes is probably motivated to put in that kind of work over the summer to prove to NBA teams he can be a better wing player.

Teams liked his size and especially his wingspan, but he didn’t show enough in combine scrimmages to get many teams excited.

Hayes now has another year to both help the Badgers get to the next level, back to where they were in 2014, and to improve his own draft stock and solidify himself as a 2017 NBA Draft pick.

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He made the right choice in returning to the Badgers for his senior season.