MADISON – Wisconsin senior Nigel Hayes was named Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year by a vote of the league’s media, the conference office announced Tuesday, making him the second Wisconsin player in the last three years to earn the award
Hayes is the fourth Badger in the last 14 seasons to be named conference preseason player of the year. The 6-8 forward from Toledo, Ohio, joins Frank Kaminsky (recognized prior to the 2014-15 season), Alando Tucker (tabbed prior to the 2006-07 season) and Devin Harris (honored prior to the 2003-04 season) as the only Badgers to earn the distinction.
Harris, Tucker and Kaminsky all went on to turn their preseason nominations into postseason Big Ten Player of the Year awards that season. Kaminsky also won the national player of the year honors in a season where Wisconsin won the Big Ten regular season and tournament titles and advanced to the national title game.
“While I appreciate the sign of respect this shows, preseason honors don’t really mean much,” Hayes said in a statement. “I’m much more concerned with postseason player of the year awards, because that would likely mean our team did something special this season. Seven of the last 12 postseason Big Ten Players of the Year have come from the conference champion and that’s one of our goals.
“If we win championships, everything individually will fall into place. Really, I just want to be Frank Kaminsky.”
Hayes was the only player to earn unanimous preseason all-conference team honors.
Hayes was a 2016 first-team All-Big Ten selection last season after leading the Badgers with 15.7 points per game and is one of just five players in Wisconsin history to record 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 200 assists in his career.
Koenig averaged 13.1 points per game last season earning 2016 second-team All-Big Ten honors. He enters his senior season needing just 71 points to reach the 1,000-point plateau.
A third-team All-Big Ten honoree and the 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Happ became just the second Big Ten freshman in the last 20 years to average at least 11.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 1.0 steal and 0.5 blocks per game.
Opening the season one month from today against Central Arkansas, Wisconsin returns 99.8 percent of its minutes played and 99.7 percent of its scoring from a team that went 12-6 in conference play and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
2016-17 PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN TEAM
Malcolm Hill, Illinois
James Blackmon Jr., Indiana
Thomas Bryant, Indiana
Peter Jok, Iowa
Melo Trimble, Maryland
Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin
NIGEL HAYES, Wisconsin
Bronson Koenig, Wisconsinnull