It was only three months ago that Nigel Hayes and his University of Wisconsin basketball team traveled to New York for an appearance in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
While preparing to play Florida at the Garden, the outspoken Hayes made the wrong kind of tabloid headlines by saying he didn’t much care for the Big Apple or the general cleanliness of the city.
“I don’t really like New York,” Hayes said to reporters then. “It’s too big, it’s dirty, trash everywhere, too many people. It’s cold right now.”
Flash forward to summer and guess where Hayes will be trying to make his NBA dreams come true?
If you guessed the Knicks, go ahead and treat yourself to a New York-style slice.
Hayes, ranked 80th among prospects by DraftExpress, wasn’t selected in either round of Thursday night’s NBA draft. Despite an accomplished college career — four Sweet 16s, two Final Fours — Hayes’ ability to play on the next level is uncertain. He struggles with the consistency of his outside shot, doesn’t guard particularly well off the dribble and seems a little undersized to play a NBA 4.
But what he lacks in elite physical talent, he makes up for it in solid fundamentals, leadership and intelligence. Which is why the Knicks likely signed him to a training camp deal that includes a partial guarantee, according to Ian Begley of ESPN NY.
Of course there’s no guarantee that Hayes spends any substantial time in New York as a Knick. He’ll have to prove his doubters wrong in summer league long before he ever comes back to NYC as a member of the NBA’s most dysfunctional franchise.
Hayes’ last trip to New York probably didn’t endear the city any more to the Ohio native. The Badgers were beat by Florida on a last-second buzzer-beater in what was probably the best game of the tourney.
“I guess it’s nice to look at in the movies,” Hayes said of New York back in March. “But I’ve had my fair share. I’m just trying to come here and win some basketball games.”
Now he’ll be back to try and make a basketball team.
Hayes wasn’t the only Badger to sign a training camp deal after being passed over on Thursday. Despite boasting in a Players Tribune piece that he was the best shooter in the draft, no one took a chance on Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig. The Milwaukee Bucks will now give him a chance as an undrafted free agent.
More NBA draft coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• NBA draft winners and losers: Kings finally score big
• NBA prospect loses millions by staying in school
• Team-by-team grades for 2017 NBA draft
• Process pays off: Sixers take Fultz No. 1 overall