As a four-star recruit, Nigel Hayes entered this season with high expectations, but in Badgerland, we often have to temper expectations for freshmen in Bo Ryan's system. In recent seasons, Ryan has been more open to handing out minutes to freshmen -- like Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Sam Dekker -- but it can take awhile for the youngins to solidify themselves in the Badgers' rotation.
Sure, it's a tiny sample size just two games into the season, but Hayes, particularly against Florida, was impressive. There's still much to be desired on the defensive side of his game and he's found himself in foul trouble, recording four fouls in both contests, but he looked comfortable with the basketball in his hands against Florida and was aggressive.
There were several frustrating instances against the Gators where the Badgers' offense went stagnant and spent too much time only working the ball around the perimeter. Specifically, Wisconsin had a rough start when it quickly fell to a 12-point deficit. But Hayes provided a quick six points off the bench and helped sparked UW's comeback.
At 6'7, 250 pounds, Hayes may not have the height of a prototypical forward who can back opposing players down in the low post, but he plays well to his skill set. When the Badgers were struggling to find and knock down open looks, Hayes showed great confidence for a freshman and asserted himself in the frontcourt, which was encouraging when you factor in the defensive skills of the Gators' bigs like Patric Young and
The confidence and aggressiveness of Hayes offensive game is something you'd like to see more from in Frank Kaminsky. There's no denying Kaminsky has a huge frame and could cause fits for defenses if he honed his footwork and low-post moves. The key is for Kaminsky to be more decisive and confident with those moves.
We're just two games into a 30-game regular season, so I'm not proclaiming Hayes as anything yet. He needs to improve defensively, avoid getting in foul trouble and play with more consistency, but it's reassuring to at least see flashes of what he could provide this team. The Badgers desperately need an offensive presence in the paint to avoid relying too heavily on jump shots. Hayes could provide that threat for Wisconsin this season.