Showing Love For Eric Hayes

2/28/2010 11:48:37 PM On a night-in, night-out basis, the Terps have been able to count on Greivis Vasquez being the best player on the floor. No matter who the opponent has been (except for that Duke game), Greivis has without fail been the best player on the floor.

Jordan Williams has also been a consistent wonder. With double-digit rebound games in four of his last five games (the one missing? He scored 18), including seven offensive boards against Virginia Tech, he’s been an absolute force on the inside. Couple that with his unbelievable post defense (it’s still there, though his help defense has waned, his one-on-one game is still impeccable), he’s easily the Terps’ second best player.

Everyone with a soapbox has showered praises on these two guys for weeks now (including me). Sometimes, when you have a dynamic presence like Vasquez and an unexpected contributor, one can lose sight of the quiet one who nonetheless belongs up there with those two. I’m, of course, referring to Eric Hayes.

Let me read his lines in the past 5 games (all wins) and you can deduce from that what you will before I start spouting off:

UVA – 10 points, 3 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 turnovers, 1-2 on threes

NC State – 0 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 turnover, 0-1 on threes

GT – 15 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 3-6 on threes

Clemson – 15 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 turnovers 3-3 on threes

Virginia Tech – 12 points, 2 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 turnovers, 1-3 on threes

Deduce…

Okay, stop deducing. NC State clearly stands out as a “wha happened?!” game. The Terps won, he didn’t score anything, yadda yadda yadda. NC State was the offense’s low point in that stretch. The boys put up only 67 points, but scored 76 against Georgia Tech, and 85 or more in the other three. Greivis dropped 26, J-Dub put up 19, and that pretty much did it against the Pack.

Forget that game. Hayes clearly did. He bounced back to provide just ridiculous lines. Consider that he handles the ball almost as much as Vasquez does. He put up a 32:7 assist to turnover ratio in those five games. That’s…insane. Jose Calderon circa 2008 insane. Almost five assists for every turnover is godlike, especially in college basketball. As of Feb. 25, the number leading the nation was 3.38. Yeah, soak in that context.

Moreover, the guy is the definition of efficiency on offensive. Besides never turning the ball over, does he ever, ever, take a bad shot? Sometimes we get on his case for passing up threes, but he knows his percentage drops like a rock when a hand goes in his face, so he pumps and dishes to Greivis or takes it to the hole, as he is wont to do recently.

However, I’m not telling you guys anything you don’t already know. He’s playing better than he ever has before, but it’s still Hayes-ian. It’s just what he does. What he’s still not recognized for at all, however, is his defense.

Hayes doesn’t have Greivis’ length, Mosley’s ball instincts and muscle, or Bowie’s quickness, but he does have the kind of defensive presence that you would expect Eric Hayes to have. In fact, he’s so predictably consistent on defense, no one ever talks about how good he is at it. However, at the start of the Virginia Tech game, who was guarding 1st team All-ACC guard Malcolm Delaney? Why Eric Hayes of course.

Hayes didn’t relegate Delaney to Revis Island or anything like that. It just took Delaney a full five minutes before he even got a shot off. Once Delaney got into the flow of the game, no one could really stop him. It says a lot about Hayes’ defense when a Hall of Fame coach sticks him on a player such as Malcolm Delaney to start a game, though, and Gary trusted him.

I’m not anointing Hayes as our best or second-best player. I just think that for all the love we’ve shown J-Dub and Greivis this year, and two days before Hayes’ last game at the Comcastle, the calming, overlooked 6-4 point guard from Woodbridge, Va. Deserved almost 700 words of love all to himself. He’s earned it.
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