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Maryland men's basketball season recap: Eric Hayes

This week, Terrapins Insider will take a look back on the 2009-10 Maryland men’s basketball season from an individual standpoint. We’ll discuss how each player’s year went and look ahead to his role on the team going forward. Readers are encouraged to provide their thoughts in the comments section below or email them to yandas@washpost.com.

Former Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell summed up senior guard Eric Hayes and the feelings of everyone who’s ever watched Hayes play about fairly succinctly during a phone interview in early March.

“I still say he doesn't shoot enough,” Driesell said. “I told him after one game I was up at this year, I said, ‘Man, if I could shoot like you, they'd have to tie my arms down.’ He’s solid, and he doesn't do things he can't do. He makes big threes at the end of games, but I still don't think he looks for his three enough. He's a great three-point shooter.”

He’s solid, and he doesn’t do things he can’t do.

That, in a nutshell, is Eric Hayes.

There are pure shooters, there are accurate shooters, and then there is Hayes, who always seemed as if he doing a live take for one of those Shot Doctor instructional videos when firing the basketball toward the hoop during games. His shot nearly always looked the same. For that matter, he nearly always looked the same. His facial expression, his temperament and his shot – no matter the situation, those three things remained unchanged 99 percent of the time.

Coach Gary Williams talked frequently about Hayes’s steadiness. Williams would note that he pretty much always knew what he was going to get out of Hayes on a given night, and that dependability only furthered his value to the team. Hayes would take as many shots as he felt the team needed him to take, and he often gauged correctly in that regard.

That discernment was another asset Hayes brought to the figurative table. As Hayes’s father, Kendall, a long-time high school basketball coach, noted to Washington Post columnist Mike Wise recently, Hayes always has understood that there cannot be two Greivis Vasquezs on the same team. Heck, there can’t even be one and a half Greivis Vasquezs on the same team. So Hayes deferred, even when the opportunity to assert himself more might have been present.

The balance and chemistry that Vasquez and Hayes shared played a large role in the success Maryland was able to have over the past two seasons. Specifically this season, those two worked in near-perfect harmony on many nights during ACC play, and the Terrapins ended up with a 13-3 conference record as a result.

Hayes finished his Maryland career as the fourth-best three-point shooter in program history (40.5 percent) and the top overall free-throw shooter in program history (87 percent). Hayes shot 45.4 percent from three-point range this season, but – surprise, surprise – he did not make enough three-point attempts to qualify in the ACC standings. Had he done so, he would have ranked first in the league.

As notable as Hayes’s offensive production was, the biggest development Hayes made this season came on the defensive end. Hayes is not the quickest or more agile defender, but he was quicker and more agile this season than he had been in years past. Add that to the basketball IQ Hayes – a coach’s son – has been building almost his entire life, and you’ve got a pretty capable defender. That’s why you saw Hayes matched up against Malcolm Delaney – one of the top scorers in the ACC – when the Terps were down in Blacksburg. That’s why you saw Hayes guarding Iman Shumpert when Maryland played Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament. And Hayes more than held his own on each of those occasions, among others this season.

Did Hayes completely shut down his man every night? No. But Gary Williams always could count on Hayes staying within his limits, making smart decisions and not doing what he can’t do. And often that was good enough to make getting into an offensive rhythm difficult for some of the top scorers in the ACC.

One thing that stands out to me when looking back on Hayes’s season was the reasoning Gary Williams gave for having Hayes make the in-bound pass on the last-second play Feb. 20 against Georgia Tech that ended with Cliff Tucker hitting a game-winning three-pointer. Williams said Hayes’s experience and 6-foot-3 size played into the decision to have Hayes throw the ball in, but then he went a step further.

“When you put somebody like (6-foot-10 Derrick) Favors over the top of you on the sideline and you’re not allowed to move from the position you bring the ball in, that’s a tough in-bounds pass,” Williams said. “I knew Eric would have the patience to wait for the angle where he could hit Cliff with a pass. He did all those things. Sometimes, with Cliff making the shot and everything, that gets overlooked, just how good of a pass that was to give Cliff that opportunity."

By Steve Yanda  |  April 1, 2010; 2:16 PM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Next: Eric Hayes wins men's three-point shooting championship

Comments

Man I hope Hayes will be drafted! I think he'll make a great role player in the NBA. Kind of like a Roger Mason Jr. or Hayes' idol: Steve Blake.

Posted by: Havemercyplz | April 1, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Best fundamental player I've seen at MD with GW.

Completely under-appreciated on the defensive end- too late now to watch, but his off-the-ball defense was outstanding.

Another under-valued and rarely appreciated skill was his ability to pass into the post from the wing- its one thing to get the pass to the big man, its another to hit the big-man with a pass that leads him away from his defender and puts him into a position to score- Hayes knew how to do that- unfortunately he played the majority of his career without a big man to pass too.
I'll miss watching him play as much as any player in the past 20yrs

Future head coach of the Terps???

Posted by: asnis715 | April 1, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Eric Hayes, from highly touted recruit out of Potomac to record-setting stalwart at Maryland, just another in a seemingly endless series of great local recruits that Gary got.

Posted by: Barno1 | April 1, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I can only hope Hayes gets a chance to go out and play professionally. He's been one of the best all-around team guys we've had at Maryland. Great season, excellent career and a player and young man that will definitely be missed.

Posted by: imageaid | April 1, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

If Eric Hayes isn't playing professionally it's partly because he's too classy. Eric was a real character guy -- I hope Gary can find someone to fill that hole.

Posted by: jjhare | April 1, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

If anything, Hayes was pretty much the opposite of Vasquez. Always in control, making smart passes and shots and content to let Vasquez be the aggressive one. He reminds me a lot of Steve Blake.

Posted by: Thundershock | April 1, 2010 7:50 PM | Report abuse

A sharpshooter lacking quickness and a suspect defender. Not a bad player for your college team, but I have a feeling Hayes would get eaten up on the NBA stage. He patterned his game after Steve Blake, but never attained the ballhandling ability of Maryland's greatest point guard, which is why Blake has been able to hang around in the NBA. Eric could probably beat most NBA players in a shooting contest, but he just will not be able to get that sweet shot off against an NBA defender. He lacks a crossover that threatens anyone, and would be a HUGE liability on defense guarding even the most pedestrian NBA point guards let alone the likes of Rondo, Derron Williams, or CP3. Hayes could probably find success overseas like Sarunas Jasikevicus, but a sustained career in the NBA is probably not in the cards.

With no one really on the horizon with Hayes' stroke, the Terps will sorely miss one of the best spot-up shooters they have ever had.

Posted by: Russtinator | April 2, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

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