After spending four years at Wisconsin and making the 2015 NCAA National Championship Game, Nigel Hayes did not hear his name called in the 2017 NBA Draft. He joined the New York Knicks for Summer League, but was waived before the start of the season and joined the Westchester Knicks as an affiliate player.
Throughout the season, Hayes showed that he could attack opposing defenders on the block. His versatility and ability to play both forward spots was an asset to Westchester. As a 33.2 percent three-point shooter at Wisconsin, the rookie forward made leaps with his perimeter game and became one of the top three-point shooters in the G League. He attributed his improvement in his three-point game to former New York Knicks’ assistant coach Kurt Rambis.
Hayes had great performances in his rookie season, which was highlighted by his game-winning shot against the Raptors 905. After returning from his stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, Hayes came out strong early on the offensive end. He posted a season-high 37 points against the Delaware Blue Coats. In 43 games in the G League— 38 with Westchester and five with the Raptors 905— Hayes averaged 15.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.4 steals on 43.4 percent from deep in 34.0 minutes per game.
Nigel Hayes had an opportunity to learn from Bernard King at a Westchester Knicks’ practice. He went on to detail his one-on-one time with the Knicks’ legend.
“My AAU coach actually told me to watch film of him and the way he played,” Hayes said of King in December of 2017. “I had the mid-range face up game that he’s famous for. Talking to him was fantastic, because he [gave me his perspective and shared] how he prepared for each game. He broke it down to me in terms of he was asking me can you shoot, can you dribble, can you play in the post. And [I said] ‘Yes’, ‘Yes’ ‘Yes’. Then he’s like, ‘Well no-one should be able to guard you. And I was like, ‘Well, I guess you’re correct.’”
In his rookie season, he earned three call-ups to the Los Angeles Lakers. Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings. Hayes’ dream came true when he made his NBA debut with his parents in attendance. The former Wisconsin Badger is under contract with the Kings for next season.