Four years ago, Maryland Terrapins guard Eric Hayes came to College Park knowing what kind of coach he was going to work for in Gary Williams.
He knew his coaching style, his work ethic, his practices, and how he treated his players.
“I think coming in I knew what to expect.,” Hayes told Drew Forrester of “The Morning Reaction” Tuesday morning. “I knew his coaching style coming in as a freshman. I knew what he did for players prior to me getting there.”
Now with a four year career as a Terp in the books, the former Potomac High School star is ready for the next step in his basketball career, which hopefully means becoming a member of an NBA team.
But he is still unsure of his future, and knows that the next level may be an adjustment for him.
“I think every time you go to a higher level, there’s going to be better and stronger athletes, which results in more of a physical game… the physical nature of the NBA is a lot more difficult than a college game.”
Hayes, much like fellow grads Greivis Vasquez and Landon Milbourne, have been traveling the country working out for several NBA franchises in preparation for Thursday’s draft, and recently, Hayes visited the Chicago Bulls after also trying out for the Washington Wizards earlier this month.
By first glance at his statistics over four seasons under Gary Williams, his resume is very impressive. He finished with over 1200 points and also dished out over 500 assists.
Seeing the court as a starter mostly for the last three years, he averaged over 10 ppg in his junior and seniors years. His senior year was the most impressive of all, a season in which he dished out four assists a game to go with a .502 shooting percentage.
But what really set Hayes apart, and what might make his play valuable to an NBA team is his precision from beyond the arc. During the Terrapins run into the NCAA Tournament this year, Hayes hit from 3-point land 45% of the time this year.
Those numbers, along with his gritty play and a strange resemblance, had even legendary Terps play-by-play man Johnny Holliday mistaking the 6’4, 180 Hayes with another guard that passed through at Maryland, Steve Blake.
Hayes is honored to have that misrepresentation placed on him though.
“Throughout my career, I definitely get the comparisons a lot. We look pretty similar-about the same size, same weight, and we have similar games.”
“You hear a lot, and it’s a pretty nice honor to be compared to someone like him.”
And now that he is trying to get to the NBA, where Blake has made a career of being able to pick up an offense quickly and run the point, Hayes may have to adapt some of his game in order to be drafted this week.
It is that rawness on his part that makes Hayes feel like that he may not be entirely ready for a team to use one of its two picks on him.
“I’m going into the draft pretty realistic about it. I’m not expecting to get drafted, but you never know.”
Hayes has actually had a pretty level head about him, and he also knows that if he doesn’t get drafted, there are other opportunities to present itself not just to get into the NBA, but to still continue playing basketball.
One option that seems to be popular among Terrapin grads from Williams’ program is going overseas to play. If Hayes were to go that route, he would join former Terps John Gilchrist, Drew Nicholas, Bambale Osby and a host of others who continued to play the sport outside the US.
“I think there’s a lot of great opportunities over there, and a lot of money to be made over there as well. If it don’t work out here, I’ll definitely consider it.”
But no matter where he plays, he knows that Coach Williams prepared him to be the best basketball player he could be, and to be more than ready to adjust to the next level or whatever new path came his way.
“He really pushes you and gets you better every year. That was true for me.”
“I think I improved over my four years, and I give a great deal [of credit] to him pushing me in practice and not giving up on me.”
Another change for Hayes? Not hearing Coach Williams barking at him anymore, for the first time in four years, is going to take some time, Hayes said.
“It’s going to be weird,” Hayes laughed. “But there’s new guys coming in who can take it.”
Tune into “The Morning Reaction” with Drew Forrester and Glenn Clark Monday through Friday from 6-10 AM on Sports Talk 1570 WNST!