Hayes emerges as threat for UW
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Long before Wisconsin opened the season in November, one of the noteworthy questions facing Bo Ryan’s team involved Frank Kaminsky.
Could the 7-foot junior, a gifted face-up shooter with range beyond the 3-point line, provide UW with a consistent post presence?
Three months later, as No. 21 UW (20-5, 7-5 Big Ten) prepares for a key game at noon today against No. 15 Michigan (18-6, 10-2), the question has morphed:
Who knew UW would have two legitimate inside threats?
Forward Nigel Hayes, who hasn’t attempted a 3-pointer this season, has added a deadly midrange jumper to complement his quick post moves and is blossoming into one of the better freshmen in the Big Ten.
Kaminsky appears to have battled through a short bout of tentative play and got to the rim several times in UW’s victory over Minnesota on Thursday.
It is no surprise to see Ryan keeping Hayes and Kaminsky on the floor together more often.
At times, Ryan has surrounded the duo with three guards. Thursday against Minnesota, Ryan went with two guards and both Sam Dekker and Duje Dukan at small forward early after UW fell behind by seven points. The Badgers responded with a 9-0 run.
“I think it is a good combination for us,” UW associate head coach Greg Gard said. “It gives us more size on the floor because it makes us bigger at the (small forward) if Sam or Duje go there.
“It helps us on the glass. It gives us another post presence in there. It helps us defensively. We’re a little longer across the front line.”
Hayes’ inside game complements Kaminsky’s perimeter shooting, though Kaminsky can work down low when Hayes’ defender moves away from the basket to defend the freshman’s jump shot.
“They’re both unselfish,” Gard said. “Nigel is figuring out his ability to pass, and his vision is getting better in seeing parts of the floor. Frank has always been a face-up guy first.”
In 12 Big Ten games Hayes is averaging 10.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per game.
He has made 59.5 percent of his field-goal attempts (44 of 74) but only 58.1 percent of his free-throw attempts (43 of 74), though he has made 13 of 18 free-throw attempts (72.2 percent) in last two games.
Kaminsky is averaging 10.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game. He has made 49.4 percent of his field-goal attempts (43 of 87), including 36.4 percent of his 3-pointers (8 of 22). He has been outstanding from the free-throw line by hitting 34 of 40 attempts (85 percent).
“You’ve got to be a threat at all times on the court,” Kaminsky said. “That is something I try to be from anywhere. If I become a one-dimensional player on offense it doesn’t help our team.”
Hayes had one dunk, off a steal, and made five of six free-throw attempts vs. Minnesota. He hit three of four jump shots when his defender sagged off trying to cut off a potential drive to the basket.
“We can both go inside and out,” Kaminsky said. “Nigel has been hitting his midrange shot a lot recently. He is a great passer. He finds me and we work off of each other.”
Kaminsky and Hayes should play critical roles against the Wolverines, who handed UW a 77-70 defeat in Madison on Jan. 18. Although guard Nik Stauskas got the headlines after scoring a game-high 23 points, the Badgers were hurt by Michigan’s post men Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford.
The duo combined for 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting and 15 rebounds.
Kaminsky had 14 points and four rebounds in 29 minutes for UW, but Hayes was less of a factor, contributing seven points and two rebounds in 16 minutes.
Hayes’ development is arguably the biggest story involving UW this season.
“It helps our offense in total,” Hayes said of being paired with Kaminsky, “because it gives the other guys on the court, whoever the three may be, more space to operate … because I take up more attention on the inside.
“Frank doesn’t have to be down there because I’m handling that area.”