Nigel Hayes worked on it in advance of his junior season. It went nowhere, though. And that was that. But after the 6-foot-8 forward decided to return to school for his senior year, he again approached Wisconsin assistant Lamont Paris, who handles the program's nonconference scheduling. And Hayes made it clear he was serious, if possible, about playing a game in his hometown.
"I texted him and asked, 'What if I get a certain amount of retweets?'" Hayes said.
And Paris' response?
"He said [go get] 50,000 [retweets]," Hayes told me this week. "And there it was."
And so now here were are -- using Twitter to get Nigel Hayes a homecoming.
So would you like to help get Nigel Hayes a homecoming?
Would you like to see Wisconsin play at Toledo?
-- Nigel Hayes (@NIGEL_HAYES) June 9, 2016
If so, all you have to do is retweet the above tweet. And, according to Hayes, if it gets 50,000 retweets, Wisconsin will schedule a game at Toledo -- where Hayes graduated from Whitmer High before enrolling at Wisconsin. He's been on two Final Four teams and is on track to finish his college career as one of the top three scorers in school history. So if anybody deserves a homecoming, it's Nigel Hayes.
And, remember, there's nothing too unique about homecomings. Roy Williams regularly schedules them for UNC's seniors. That's why North Carolina played a game at Northern Iowa last season -- because UNC guard Marcus Paige was raised 60 miles from UNI's campus.
"It would be absolutely amazing to play at Toledo," Hayes said. "The people back home have supported me ever since high school. And my best friend plays at Toledo. So I'd enjoy actually playing against him. And I know my friends and family who never get to come to Wisconsin would love the opportunity to watch me play in college. And what better time than my senior year?"
What better time than this year?
So click this link, retweet that tweet and make it happen.
FIVE OTHER THINGS ON GP'S MIND
1. I talked with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo after the NBA Draft, and one of the things he told me is that he thinks the concerns about Denzel Valentine's knees were overstated. "He played 140 of 144 games [while at Michigan State]," Izzo said. Obviously, that doesn't guarantee anything. But the Bulls clearly felt comfortable enough to still take Valentine in the lottery, and that has to be a good sign.
2. North Carolina State got a commitment from former SMU pledge Ted Kapita on Friday. The 6-8 forward is ranked 56th in the Class of 2016, according to 247 Sports. That means Mark Gottfried has added two top-60 prospects for this upcoming season in the past six weeks. The other is Omer Yurtseven, a 7-foot center whom I have going 18th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft.
3. Speaking of mock drafts, it's always fun to look back and compare them to the actual draft. So I did that late Thursday, and here's the bottom line: the eight players I projected to come off the board first did indeed come off the board first, and 25 of the 30 players I projected to go in the first round actually went in the first round. My biggest miss was Georgios Papgiannis. I had him going 53rd to Denver. He instead went 13th to Sacramento. But most analysts seem to think that makes Sacramento look worse than it makes me look.
4. JUCO forward Tyrek Coger will not be allowed to enroll at Ole Miss -- even though he had committed to Andy Kennedy's Rebels -- because of an SEC rule that prohibits league members from accepting JUCO transfers who weren't enrolled at their previous school for at least three semesters. I wrote a column about this issue two years ago. You can read it here. (FYI: This is the same rule that once prevented Georgia's Mark Fox from recruiting Georgia native Jae Crowder. Crowder, of course, enrolled at Marquette after junior college, became a star and this season averaged 14.2 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Boston Celtics.)
5. Mark Few has turned Gonzaga into a national brand capable of luring accomplished power-conference players to the WCC. The latest example is Jordan Matthews. He averaged 13.4 points at California last season. He announced this week that he'll play for the Zags next season. And Matthews will join two other accomplished newcomers on Gonzaga's roster -- namely Johnathan Williams and Nigel Williams-Goss. Williams averaged 11.9 points and 7.1 rebounds two seasons ago at Missouri. Williams-Goss averaged 15.6 points and 5.9 assists two seasons ago at Washington.
FINAL THOUGHT: I don't actually believe it's going to happen. Let's be clear about that. But I couldn't help but wonder -- after watching Thon Maker go 10th in the 2016 NBA Draft while Skal Labissiere went 28th, and after reading my colleague Matt Norlander's column from Barclays Center -- if it really might be wise for projected top-10 picks to skip college to avoid the risk of being exposed.
Because, this time last year, nobody would've taken Maker over Labissiere.
Not a single general manager.
But Labissiere spent the past year struggling at Kentucky, and Maker spent the past year not struggling at a prep school (if only because it's impossible to struggle at a prep school), and their projected draft spots basically flipped. Almost everybody had Labissiere going in the top five a year ago. Literally nobody had Maker going in the top 10 ever. But Labissiere fell well outside of the top five. And Maker went 10th to the Milwaukee Bucks. So now Maker is guaranteed to earn more than twice as much money as Labissiere over the next two years.
But what if Labissiere would've never played a minute at Kentucky? Where would he have been drafted if all anybody had ever seen him do is perform well in workouts, summer-circuit games and events like the Jordan Brand Classic?
I asked various sources those questions Friday. And basically everybody -- both college and NBA people -- insisted Labissiere would've probably been a top-10 pick if nobody had ever seen him struggle at Kentucky. In other words, that one year of college likely cost Labissiere millions of dollars because people stopped being amazed by his potential once he showed them he could not consistently produce, which means he would've been better off, at least financially, if he'd never shown anybody anything other than what he showed them prior to enrolling at Kentucky. It's impossible to intelligently argue otherwise.
From Brandon Jennings to Emmanuel Mudiay to Enes Kanter to Thon Maker, history shows that struggling overseas, missing games because of eligibility issues or spending a post-graduate year doing little at a prep school won't damage a prospect's NBA stock. But struggling in college will. That's the truth. And once you acknowledge elite prospects already skip the combine and refuse to workout with other elite prospects strictly to protect their draft status, isn't it fair to wonder if avoiding college completely is the next logical step to ensuring you get picked where most thought you'd be picked on the day you graduated high school?