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Nigel Hayes talks future of college sports

Plus an Ethan Happ update

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We’ve talked a lot about spring football, football recruiting, and the 2018 NFL Draft over the past few weeks. Of course, there’s more to come, especially for recruiting.

But we’re here to talk about Wisconsin basketball today.

On Tuesday, former Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes spoke on a panel at the Aspen Institute regarding the “Future of College Sports: Reimagining Athlete Pay.”

Asked (at the 1:27:14 mark in the video above) if the team ever discussed boycotting a game, Hayes noted he brought up the idea during his senior year before a game against Syracuse that was part of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge during the 2016–17 season.

Hayes reasoned it would not affect the team’s conference record and it was not taking place during the NCAA Tournament, but it would grab attention because the game was nationally televised.

Hayes later spoke with USA TODAY’s Steve Berkowitz about it:

“I knew 90 percent of the guys were on board from the get-go, before I asked the question,” Hayes told USA TODAY Sports after the panel discussion. “But I let them know that if one of you guys says no, we won’t do it because, obviously, we’re a team and we’re going to stick together.

“In hindsight, I think those guys that said no would change their mind now. That’s usually what happens. The guys who don’t go on to the NBA, once they leave college, they look back and say, ‘Wow, I was exploited -- and now I have nothing to show for it.’ … So, I think we missed our opportunity, but hopefully this word gets out and it will inspire a group of kids that in college now or will be in college.”

Hayes mentioned (1:28:17) that one player was not comfortable with the idea, so they did not go through with the plans.

The former Wisconsin standout played most of the 2017–18 season with the NBA G-League’s Westchester Knicks while also signing 10-day contracts with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Toronto Raptors. He later signed with the Sacramento Kings and is still currently on their roster.

As Berkowitz points out, Hayes also still is listed as one of the plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits against the NCAA.

Ethan Happ NBA Draft update

The Wisconsin State Journal’s Jim Polzin caught up with Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ in an article published on Tuesday, getting Happ’s thoughts on not being invited to the NBA Draft Combine and training for workouts with teams.

Polzin reported Happ has worked out in Chicago at Quest Multisport with a handful of NBA prospects, notably Missouri’s Michael Porter, Jr., and from the sounds of it, the sessions were intense.

Polzin also reported Happ will visit the Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder this weekend.

Regarding Happ’s thought process about coming back to Wisconsin, Polzin spells out a minor update:

“Finally, Happ said he’d stay in the draft only if he was convinced he’d be a first-round draft pick. That seemed — and still seems — like a highly unlikely scenario based on mock drafts and the fact Happ wasn’t among the 60 players invited to the combine.

Happ said Monday night his mindset hasn’t changed in the past two months, though he hedged slightly on the draft placement issue: If Happ was told he’d be drafted early in the second round, he said, he’d have a difficult decision to make.

A recent Sports Illustrated ranking of the top 100 draft-eligible players had Happ at No. 93.”


  • Samford big man Wyatt Walker committed to N.C. State last Friday. The new Wolfpack player was among potential grad-transfer targets for Wisconsin.