This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Nigel Hayes: "I'm looking for a school ... where I can win multiple championships."

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball Updated: September 11, 2012 - 12:25 PM

 

Nigel Hayes (credit Kelly Kline, Nike)

Nigel Hayes (credit Kelly Kline, Nike)

 

Recruit Nigel Hayes is seeking in a school is the ability to “win multiple championships in my college career.”
 
And so far, he hasn’t eliminated the University of Minnesota as a provider of that goal.
After officially visiting Minnesota last weekend, Hayes – a Toledo, Ohio native -- left impressed overall.
 
None of the three recruits in for the weekend -- Gavin Schilling and Cedric Hankerson were the others – gave a verbal commitment, according to a source.
 
“I came in thinking Minnesota was a nice program,” Hayes said. “My impression was they’re nice, but my impression afterward was that they have a lot more to offer than I previously knew.”
 
In particular, he was interested in the Gophers’ strength and conditioning program – which focuses more on speed and power than raw heavy lifting. He like the team’s ideology about an up-tempo style of play (the Gophers haven’t always succeeded in that, but coach Tubby Smith has long stated that they want to play that way), the style that fits his skills, he says. Even though Hayes didn’t visit the Carlson School of Business, he likes the possibility (“When it’s all said and done I want to be a CEO,” he said. “I don’t know of what yet, but that’s my goal”). He said Smith had a good sense of humor. And the raised court in Williams Arena that creates so many complaints?
 
“I thought it was nice, actually,” Hayes said. “It’s kind of more, in my mind, like a stage as in it’s above everyone else, so their attention is focused higher, like directly on you I guess in a way.”
 
The arena, however, looked much smaller than it did on TV, he said.
 
Hayes visited Wisconsin the previous weekend (he said the Badgers and Gophers programs were “hand-in-hand”) and still has scheduled visits with Stanford and Ohio State. Only after all his visits, Hayes said, will he start to weigh the options and make a decision, likely before his senior high school season starts.
 
One thing that will NOT be a factor is city size. Hayes said he has no preference between the “big-city” feel of Minneapolis or the college small-town feel of Madison.
 
But if he does pick a Big Ten school, which is likely, his coach Bruce Smith said physically the big kid will fit right in immediately.
 
“My son (Ryan Smith, Purdue) just got done playing for four years in that league and I know how physical the league is,” Bruce Smith said. “He’s certainly got an advantage there because he’s not going to have to go in and alter his body like a lot of kids that play in the Big Ten have to, from high school … he’s going to be ready to play physically right away.”
 
Some other highlights from Hayes’ weekend:
 
·         Hayes had a one-on-one shootout with assistant coach Vince Taylor, who he facetiously accused of cheating. “He won’t admit to that when you ask him, but we were shooting side-by-side from the top of the key and every time I shot, he kept hitting my left elbow, which of course alters the shot, so I lost by one,” he said.”
 
·         On Saturday evening, Hayes, Schilling and Hankerson, along with the current Gophers players, all had dinner at Smith’s house, which apparently has a great pool table. He hung out with the team in their rooms later that night. “I felt like I got to know them because those guys are all a bunch of jokesters and you can tell they’re all really close to one another,” he said. “And me with my personality, being a jokester as well, you know I fit right in. It was a good time.”
 
·         Friday night’s dinner was at Capital Grille where Hayes ordered lobster and crab-stuffed shrimp. Not bad.
 
·         Hayes and the other recruits went with Donna Smith (Tubby’s wife) to the Mall of America on Saturday as well. “That’s a huge mall,” Hayes said.
 
 
Facts on Hayes:
  • 6-7, 215 power forward with pretty good shooting range and the ability to score on his own in the paint.
  • From Toledo, Ohio. He attends Whitmer High School
  • Other offers: Stanford, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Xavier, Illinois, USC, DePaul (has visited Wisconsin; will still visit Ohio State and Stanford).

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