WNBA Draft Day for Hayes

Tiffany Hayes will not command the same attention of a Maya Moore or Tina Charles when the 2012 WNBA Draft is held Monday at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

But Hayes never has been at center stage during her career. When her time comes, Hayes will know she did enough to make it. And she should realize the power of the name on the front of her jersey over the past four years.

Hayes is expected to be a first-round selection in the draft, likely waiting until the second half of the round to hear her name called. Given the inconsistencies in her game and her reputation for struggling in the Final Four and other big games, Hayes must acknowledge she is getting an assist from the uniform she has worn as a college player.

Players from Connecticut are highly valued in the WNBA Draft. That's a bonus for Hayes. And it's a credit to the respect the UConn program has earned over time.

Hayes would be the 13th UConn player taken in the first round. Wherever she ends up, the demands and the pressures won't be as severe as they were in Storrs. And that could make her a better player.

"The one thing that I always say about players from Connecticut and also players from Tennessee, the rich-tradition type programs, is that they have always kept their college coaches, staffs in high regards," Seattle coach Brian Agler said on a conference call last week. "The players speak highly of them; they tended to be a big part of their lives, even once they get in the pro level. I think that's important in our evaluation, because they are very team oriented.

"And Tiffany definitely is that. She's had a great career there. I anticipate her going in the first round at some point. You know, she's got some versatility and some length [at 5 foot 9]. But definitely her pedigree going to that program from four years, playing on the great teams that she has will help her. It's a very competitive situation, and that's what she comes from."

Hayes should know what to expect. She has watched three former UConn teammates – Renee Montgomery, Charles and Moore – get drafted in the first round.

That, and the lower expectations she will discover in the pros, should help her transition to the WNBA.

"I think my transition is going to be a pretty good one, and playing [at UConn] is definitely going to help me out a lot," Hayes said. "It's taught me a lot, learning from the players to learning from the coaches."

The Lakeland, Fla., native is one of 15 invitees to attend the draft in Bristol on Monday. It will be a moment to treasure for the player who finished her career in the Final Four and departed Storrs with a 147-7 record.

Hayes won two national championships, played in four Final Fours, was a two-time, All-Big East first team member and was named Associated Press third team All-American as a senior. She is coming off her best season in a UConn uniform, averaging 14.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assista and 2.3 steals.

"When I was younger, I wasn't really thinking about [the WNBA]," Hayes said. "I kind of knew about it but it wasn't really in my mind to go. I started late playing and I was kind of an under-the-radar type of player my whole life. So it really didn't cross my mind that I was going to make it here.

"And when I was younger, I really didn't think I would be up for a scholarship to go to college to be honest. The WNBA generally was not in any mind but now that I'm here, it feels great."

Rebecca Lobo, now an ESPN analyst, was the trailblazer into the WNBA from UConn's program. That was back in 1997, but Lobo thinks Hayes has what it takes to make it in the league today.

"I think her experience being a complementary player is a good thing because that's what she's going to be is a complementary player," Lobo said. "She has a lot of things you look for in a pro: She has got good size and she can get to the free throw line. She can pass the ball. She can rebound the ball. She's a high-percentage field goal shooter and three-point shooter.

"You know, I think Tiffany is going to be a really good pro and the one criticism that she might have gotten at Connecticut is sometimes in big games, she's had some struggles and in the Final Four she had some struggles. Well you know she's not going to need to carry a team in the WNBA and not going to need to be called upon to hit the big shot at the end of the game. There will be other players to do that. I think she's going to be a really good pro."

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