MILWAUKEE (AP) — Hours of practice helped Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes impress in the spotlight during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
He’s pretty good on the basketball court, too.
The Badgers’ next time under the bright lights of the NCAA stage is Wednesday in Los Angeles, where the team is getting ready for its Sweet 16 game against North Carolina. Stenographers transcribing Wisconsin press conferences better get ready for some questions.
Last weekend, a video of a curious Hayes, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker playfully inquiring about the job of a stenographer proved to be a clicker on the Internet.
Hayes couldn’t let it go his next time in front of the cameras.
“Before I answer that question, I would like to say a few words — cattywampus, onomatopoeia and antidisestablishmentarianism,” the sophomore said teasingly. He explained it was his way of making the stenographer’s job a little more interesting.
Just another funny guy in the Badgers frontcourt, complementing the straight-faced Kaminsky.
Versatile on and off the floor while cool under pressure, Hayes fits the mold of an ideal forward for the Badgers.
“Pressure has never really been something that’s affected him much,” Wisconsin assistant coach Lamont Paris said this week. “It’s just his personality.”
During last year’s NCAA run to the Final Four, Hayes carried a video camera in the locker room and interviewed teammates during media availabilities under the name “Nigel Burgundy” — a play off the name of actor Will Ferrell’s bumbling newsman character in the movie comedy “Anchorman.”
Hayes is not just an overnight sensation. He’s always been a pretty funny guy. It’s just that the personality is now playing out on a bigger stage.
“He’s pretty outgoing from the early point in his career,” Paris said. “Like the thing he did with the stenographer — that’s the same guy who does ‘Nigel Burgundy.’ It’s not put on — that’s who he is.”
On the court, Hayes is only getting better.
The biggest improvement this season is his 3-point shooting. He’s a 39 percent shooter from behind the arc (33 of 84) after not taking a single 3 last season.
Kaminsky has said it is the result of countless early-morning shooting sessions in the summer. For Hayes, the improved outside shooting is a nice complement to his nifty moves along the baseline and a spin move in the post.
According to Paris, Hayes always had an outside shot, even in his freshman year. It’s just that Hayes has developed the confidence to take those shots during games.
Paris said that it’s a sign of Hayes’ maturity at an early age — to resist the temptation of taking 3s in order to find better shots.
Hayes has also improved dramatically at the foul line, shooting 74 percent this season after hitting 58 percent from the line as a freshman. Hayes’ scoring average has risen by almost five points to 12.6.
“I was just trying to make sure I become a better, more well-rounded player out there on the court,” Hayes said about his offseason routine. “And by me doing that, the results are showing, and the team is better, and if I’m able to play better obviously it makes the team better.”
That hard work carries over to the classroom, Ryan said.
Hayes has studied Italian and German. He picked up an affinity for learning about less commonly used words from the time when his stepfather would read to him when he was a boy.
“First of all, you’re dealing with one of the brightest young men I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach; and if he has a shortcoming, it won’t be a shortcoming for very long,” Ryan said.
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