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Nigel Hayes on Gophers Recruiting Visit: "it has been a real nice visit so far."

09/08/2012, 9:42pm CDT
By Chris Monter

The Ohio big man is a top Gopher target.

Nigel Hayes, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward from Toledo (WI) Whitmer, is one of the top big men in the Midwest. Hayes is visiting Minnesota this weekend and talked to Gopher Hole about his trip.

Nigel Hayes, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward from Toledo (WI) Whitmer, is one of the top big men in the Midwest. Hayes is visiting Minnesota this weekend and talked to Gopher Hole about his trip.

Hayes was named second team Division I All-State after averaging 13.8 points per game as a junior. He is ranked as the sixth-best player in a talented Ohio state class.
Hayes was named first team All-Three Rivers Athletic Conference. Teammate and senior guard Ricardo Smith was named second team All-Three Rivers Athletic Conference for head coach Bruce Smith. They will also welcome back fellow guard Luke Hickey, the third returning senior starter for the Panthers.
Hayes averaged 13.4 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game this past season. He had 39 blocked shots and set a school record with 65 steals. Hayes shot 59 percent from 2-point range and 74 percent at the free-throw line.
Head coach Bruce Smith is a big supporter of his four-year starter.
“What separates Nigel from a lot of the other good players in the area is that I believe he has the ability to make the other people on his team better,” Smith told the Toledo Blade. “A lot of guys are great scorers, or rebound, or something else, but Nigel has a complete skill set where he can handle the ball against pressure, and find the open guy. He has court awareness, he can score when he has to, he can defend, he can block shots with the best of them, and he set the school record for steals. He can elevate the play of the others on the team, and that’s what really makes him a special player.”
Hayes was named second team All-Three Rivers Athletic Conference as a wide receiver as a junior as he helped lead the Panthers to a 13-1 mark, losing 17-6 to 10-time state champion Cleveland St. Ignatius in a Division I state semifinals. He was named honorable mention All-District. However, he is not playing football this season to concentrate on basketball and making visits.
Hayes visited Wisconsin last weekend and is also considering fellow Big Ten school Ohio State and Stanford. His older brother, Kenny Hayes, signed with Ohio State for football. He redshirted last season with the Buckeyes and the defensive lineman is transferring to Toledo. Kenny Hayes will be eligible to play beginning next season and will have three years of eligibility left.
Gopher Hole: When did you get in town?
Nigel Hayes: We got in town Friday at around 2:30.
Gopher Hole: What all have you had a chance to see so far? 
Nigel Hayes: We toured the academic center. We toured the sports facilities that the player use now while the floor is being finished in the main gym. We have seen some of the facilities and everything where the players will be at and we were told about how the players are taken care as far as academically, physically and Christian-wise.
Gopher Hole: You got a chance to visit Wisconsin last weekend. How was that visit? 
Nigel Hayes: It was a great visit. It was real insightful in how great their program is and the things that they do for you. Minnesota seems to be matching everything right now, so it has been a real nice visit so far. 
Gopher Hole: Is it hard or is it easy to compare schools once you have seen them?
Nigel Hayes: It is not that hard, really. The hard thing is finding things that are different because in reality, things will always be different with different colleges, because they are different colleges. For the most part, everything they offer is the same. What it boils down to is where you feel that you will be the most comfortable.
Gopher Hole: You had a great season at Whitmer, making to the championship game before falling just a bit short. What are the expectations with you and two other starters back?  
Nigel Hayes: The expectations for this year are to finish what we didn’t do last year and that is to win state.
Gopher Hole: I know that you were leading late in the game before they made a run. Is that even more of a motivating factor having come so close to winning the first state in school history?
Nigel Hayes: Yes, it is having come so close. Like our football coach used to tell us “when you get a taste of the sweetness, you want to eat the whole thing.” So that is what our goal is to get back to the state and win it.
Gopher Hole: You are not playing football this season. Is that tough because I know that had a great year last season, making it to the state semifinals? Is it tough to not be playing or is it just too much with visits?
Nigel Hayes: It is a little tough. It would be really tough with visits because of the games on Friday and us having to be here Friday. It is hard watching them play out there because I do miss the “Friday Night Lights” like everyone else loves, but it is what is best for me and it will help me gets myself better for basketball, so I can reach our goal to win state.
Gopher Hole: Was it hard to tell your coaches and your teammates, several of whom play basketball that you are not playing this season? I’m sure some have tried to talk you into coming back.
Nigel Hayes: The players, they understand. It is the coaches. They understand as well, but that wouldn’t stop them from putting a little hint every now and then that I could still come out and play football.
Gopher Hole: What are your plans the next several weeks for visits?
Nigel Hayes: I have Stanford coming up later. I don’t know if it is next week or in a couple of weeks. After that, my last visit will be Ohio State and after that, that is when I will be sitting down and doing a little compare and contrast about the colleges and see where I fit the best at.
Gopher Hole: Are you committed to signing in the early signing period or have you decided that yet?
Nigel Hayes: I am trying to get my decision done before my high school season starts.
Gopher Hole: Do you have any coaches coming to open gyms in the next week or so?
Nigel Hayes: We start AM shooting in the morning before school starts, so a couple of coaches from Wisconsin and Ohio State, have told me that they will be out and making a trip to watch in the morning.
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