Speaking to ESPN Wisconsin at the Wisconsin Sports Awards on Tuesday, Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes gave the most conclusive indication yet about his plans to return for his senior season.
Hayes, who has long been considered a possibility to follow Sam Dekker's footsteps in entering the NBA draft one year early, had a somewhat "disappointing" 2015 season. Without Dekker or defending national player of the year Frank Kaminsky -- both first-round NBA draft picks -- Hayes shouldered a heavy burden alongside point guard Bronson Koenig. His numbers were hardly lackluster -- averaging nearly four more minutes per game than he did as a sophomore, Hayes boosted his scoring numbers (from 12.4 points per game to 16.3) and assist totals (from 2.0 per game to 3.0), but his shooting dropped across the board (from .513 overall to .381 and .403 from three-point range to .314).
The Badgers, of course, endured an unusual amount of adversity considering the mid-season coaching transition from Bo Ryan to Greg Gard, and still managed to build an impressive run to the Sweet 16.
Back to Hayes, and his comments Tuesday night. Asked by ESPN Wisconsin (the audio of the interview is right here) if he had any news to drop regarding his draft status, Hayes responded:
"No, there's not any news. I mean, just had my coaches meeting, the people around me know. Really, the gist of it, though, is -- I was just telling the guys -- I would love to come back, my plan is to come back. But, you know, the whole 'testing the waters' thing is what it is, it's you testing the waters. That's why they changed this rule now, to allow players to be able to do that. So I'm just going to continue from now on until the combine -- if I'm invited, that is -- work to become the best player I can be and go there, perform. Whatever may happen with that, happens. If nothing comes from that, then, you know, I'm looking forward to having a terrific senior season."
Entering last season, many saw Hayes as a possible first-round draft pick, perhaps even a lottery pick. Now, there doesn't seem to be as much of a consensus. DraftExpress.com lists Hayes only in its 2017 mock draft, as the No. 24-ranked player.
Bo Ryan makes an appearance
Ryan was also in attendance at the awards show, dropping this gem about how he spent the season watching from afar for a change (via Madison.com):
"I'm having fun on the golf course; I'm enjoying the weather," Ryan said Tuesday night in his first public appearance in Wisconsin since his retirement. "The toughest nights were pacing the kitchen watching the Badgers play."
"Coaching was a lot easier than being a fan," he said. "Now I know why my dad never sat and watched when I coached. He always paced around."
For Ryan's complete remarks, including whether rumored details about his personal life altered his retirement plans, head to Madison.com.
For a full list of the Wisconsin Sports Awards winners, head to ESPN.com.