Aftermath of Nigel Hayes' decision to return to Wisconsin

Monday, December 22: Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes swings from the hoop after scoring a basket during the second half. Wisconsin defeated California 68-56.

Monday, December 22: Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes swings from the hoop after scoring a basket during the second half. Wisconsin defeated California 68-56.

Nigel Hayes had a lot of people guessing what he'd do -- remain in the NBA Draft or return to college (one-third of voters in a Twitter poll I posted Tuesday morning thought he'd stay in the draft). Hayes kept saying that if a team said it would take him, even in the second round, he'd turn pro.

Of course, we now know that Hayes eventually chose to return to Wisconsin for his senior season.

But will returning to college actually be a boon for Hayes? We won't ever know if he would have been drafted this year (however, if you are to believe the mock drafters, that seemed unlikely) and we'll have to wait a year to see how Hayes is perceived before the 2017 NBA Draft. But he clearly has some work cut out for him.

More from FoxSports


All of the mock drafts for 2017 were posted before Wednesday's deadline for players to stay in the draft or return to college. Here's where Hayes is listed, although keep in mind some players in the mocks may have gone to the NBA and others thought to go leave (Melo Trimble, for example) might not be listed: Second round, No. 45. (Note: The site has Wisconsin's Vitto Brown at No. 43.) Second round, No. 31. Second round, No. 34. Second round, No. 40.

Clearly, Hayes would like to get into the first round. Cut and paste the above and let's compare it to where Hayes is listed next May.


Regardless, pundits around the web thought Hayes made the right choice. Or, depending on how you look at it, Wisconsin was a beneficiary of Hayes' decision.

Sam Vecenie of lists Wisconsin as one of his NBA Draft Decision Day winners: "Nigel Hayes may not have had the best junior season or best NBA Draft Combine, but his return to the fold is still massively important to a Badgers' team that will have aspirations of winning the Big Ten. Hayes was the team's best player last season despite his rough shooting percentages, averaging nearly 16 points and six rebounds per game. If he can work to improve his shooting and efficiency, he'll have a chance to rise back into the first round of the draft, as his positional versatility is highly coveted by today's NBA.

The Big Lead's Ryan Phillips says Hayes' return to Wisconsin was one of the five best NBA Draft decisions. "Nigel Hayes was a sure-fire first-round pick after the 2014-15 season but he opted to return to Wisconsin. Now, after battling through an up-and-down junior season and a poor showing at the NBA scouting combine, he was likely a late second-round pick at best. Hayes made the right call by returning to school, and a good showing as a senior could get him back into the first round conversation. . . . Hayes is long and super active on both ends of the floor, but he finds himself wasting energy at times, when settling down and making the smart play would be his best option. He is strong and has the athleticism to compete in the NBA. The key for Hayes as a senior will be proving that he can shoot the ball consistently. He made the right call to return because his stock had basically bottomed out and he needs to rebuild his profile as a future NBA player."'s Chris Johnson puts Wisconsin atop his NBA Draft deadline winners list. "Wisconsin risked regressing in coach Greg Gard's first full season at the helm had Nigel Hayes elected to stay in the draft. Alas, Hayes is returning, as are his team-leading 89.9 minutes percentage and 6.5 fouls drawn per 40 minutes mark. Hayes's scoring efficiency took a tumble as he shouldered a larger workload last season, but the Badgers will welcome him back with open arms to lead a push for the Big Ten title alongside guard Bronson Koenig and big man Ethan Happ. For Wisconsin fans, last season may have been disappointing in comparison to its 2014–15 campaign, which ended with an appearance in the title game, but the Badgers came within five points a trip Elite Eight this years. And with Hayes back, Wisconsin can plan to play in the 2017 tournament's second weekend right now."'s Jeff Eisenberg has Wisconsin at No. 9 in his list of draft deadline day winners. "Although Hayes once had every intention of staying in the draft, his inefficient shooting the past six months forced him to reconsider. He almost certainly would not have been a first-round pick and he might have gone undrafted altogether. Hayes' return solidifies Wisconsin as a preseason top 15 team and a contender for the Big Ten title. The Badgers return Hayes, co-star Bronson Koenig, Big Ten freshman of the year Ethan Happ and virtually every other key player from a team that sputtered to a 9-9 start but rebounded to make the NCAA tournament and advance to the Sweet 16."

Jordan Cornette of Campus Insiders has Wisconsin as the No. 2 team which gained the most following the NBA Draft deadline (Villanova was No. 3 and Oregon No. 1).

Bleacher Report's Kelly Miller thinks of all the players who decided to return to college, Hayes made the best decision. "Hayes has a future in the NBA, but he's at the top of a long list of players who need one more season to maximize draft position and salary. With Hayes in tow, Wisconsin should open the season as a Top 15 team and could creep into the Top 10 over the next few months. We saw in 2013-14 and 2014-15 how effective he can be as a tertiary weapon on a dominant team, but he needs to show he can be the main guy on a title contender. Seniors don't often go in the lottery, but Frank Kaminsky was the No. 9 pick last June. With a big 2016-17 season, Hayes could get there. At any rate, his chances of going in the first round should improve drastically."

Wisconsin didn't make the five winners (or losers) from the NBA Draft deadline from SB Nation's Mike Rutherford, but the Badgers were listed as an honorable mention (winner, of course).

Two others I found had a winners and losers from decision deadline -- USA Today's Nicole Auerbach and ESPN Insider Jeff Goodman -- and neither listed Hayes or Wisconsin.


With or without Hayes, Wisconsin was going to be considered a top-25 team heading into the 2016-17 season. So how good will they be with Hayes in the lineup?

Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart thinks Wisconsin is now the team to beat in the Big Ten. "Hayes will be the lynchpin of a Wisconsin lineup that returns every major contributor."

Others feel similarly . . . but don't necessarily see the Badgers as the best team in the conference.

Gary Parrish of updated his top 25 (and one) with post-draft decisions and he has Wisconsin at No. 13. However, he has Michigan State at No. 8 and Indiana No. 11. "Nigel Hayes returning to school means Wisconsin will return every piece that matters from a team that closed strong and advanced to the Sweet 16. So Greg Gard is set up to make a second NCAA Tournament even before he's coached two full seasons at Wisconsin, and who in the world saw that coming?"'s Jeff Eisenberg slots Wisconsin at No. 13 in his post-draft deadline day top 20, which is behind both Michigan State (No. 7) and Indiana (No. 8). "While Hayes undoubtedly intended to enter the NBA draft as a junior before this season began, he was wise to stay put for his senior year. He endured some rough patches this season as his revamped outside shot deserted him and he transitioned into a leadership role. He also has the chance to be part of another special season at Wisconsin if he returns because the Badgers return an astonishing 99.7 percent of their scoring and rebounding from a team that rebounded from a 9-9 start, blossomed during the second half of the season and came within a basket or two of the Elite Eight. Hayes will be part of a starting lineup that will also include co-star Bronson Koenig, fellow seniors Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter and reigning Big Ten freshman of the year Ethan Happ. Preseason expectations might not match the 2014-15 season, but the Badgers will definitely be expected to contend in the Big Ten and make another deep March run."

Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead has Wisconsin at No. 5 in his post-NBA Draft decisions top 25, ahead of Indiana (10), Purdue (13), Michigan State (15) and Maryland (16). He had the Badgers at No. 12 following the national championship game. "Have as good of a Big 3 as anyone in the country with Bronson Koenig (13.1 ppg), Nigel Hayes (15.7 ppg and Ethan Happ (12.4 ppg). I'm overly bullish. Like, put a benjamin on them to win it all next time you're in Vegas."

Basketball statistical guru Ken Pomeroy has Wisconsin at No. 7 in his updated preseason top 10. The Badgers are the only Big Ten team he has listed.

Follow Dave Heller on Twitter