University of Wisconsin junior forward Nigel Hayes has pulled his name out of N.B.A. draft consideration and will return to Madison for his senior season, his mother tells BadgerNation, a major coup for a program with aspirations of returning back to the Final Four.
Wednesday was the deadline for underclassmen, who hadn’t hired an agent, to remove their name from draft consideration.
“Getting the opportunity to gather information about the NBA and visit with professionals at that level was a really valuable experience for me,” Hayes said. “Playing in the NBA still remains an important goal for me, but that can wait another year. I’m excited to get back to work to pursue that dream, as well as the dream of getting my degree and helping my teammates, my brothers, bring a championship to Wisconsin.”
The return of the 6-7 Hayes means Wisconsin returns its top nine scorers from last season, not to mention 99.8 percent of its minutes, 99.7 of its scoring and rebounding and 100 percent of its assists and steals. It’s the prime reason some project the Badgers as a preseason top-10 team.
Although leading the team with 15.7 points per game, Hayes shot 11-for-54 (20.1 percent) and 2-for-21 (9.5 percent) from 3-point range in four postseason games. He finished the season shooting 36.8 percent from the floor and 29.3 percent from 3-point range (worst among UW’s starting lineup).
Surrounded by N.B.A. first-round picks Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky as a sophomore, Hayes averaged 12.4 points on 49.7 percent shooting and 39.6 percent from 3-point range.
Much like his postseason, Hayes’ combine experience was a struggle. Playing 39 minutes in two scrimmages, Hayes finished 1-for-5 from the field (0-2 from 3) for two points. He had four assists and one rebound, finishing with a plus/minus ratio of -13.
He also had workouts – at his own expense – with the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns but never appeared in any draft expert’s two round mock draft.
“I’m proud of Nigel for going through the process. It’s not easy to put yourself out on display over the course of a month,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard said. “I know it helped him with his decision, but also it will make him a better player and leader for our team.”
Hayes has played in 113 career games at Wisconsin, including 75 starts. Just the fifth player in program history to accumulate 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists, Hayes joined Michael Finley as the only Badgers in program history to surpass those milestones by their junior seasons.