Nigel Hayes returning to Wisconsin, looks to rebuild draft stock in senior season

Nigel Hayes tested the NBA Draft process, but ended up not quite hearing what he needed to in order to stay in the draft.

Hayes will return to Wisconsin for his senior season, and withdraw from the 2016 NBA Draft.

"It was better to work on the skills I would need a year in the NBA a year in advance, rather than three months prior," Hayes told ESPN. "As a byproduct of that, next year I presume my stock will be higher as well."

Hayes was on the draft radar in a major way coming into the 2015-16 season, but didn't quite live up to expectations as the team struggled a bit -- especially early in the season. Overall, Hayes averaged a solid 15.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and three assists per game. However, he really struggled with his efficiency throughout the season and only hit 36.8 percent of his field goals and only posted a 49.1 true-shooting percentage.

Hayes was one of the bigger proponents of the NCAA's rule allowing underclassmen to test the waters for the NBA Draft as long as they didn't hire an agent. He discussed this idea at the combine, and said how beneficial it is for all three parties involved.

"I think it's a great rule," Hayes said. "It's something that should have been in place. I think it's a win-win situation for all of the parties involved. The NBA gets a chance to see future prospects and potential prospects and evaluate them earlier with a more hands on approach. The college kids get to see if they're good enough if an NBA team wants them, and if that isn't the case they can find out what they need to work on, they can go back to their college team help themselves become better and help the team become better. So I think for all of the parties involved it's a win-win."

Unfortunately though, Hayes was one of the worse performers at the combine this season, really struggling to make his mark in the 5-on-5 session after his problems this season. One thing did go well, in that he measured out to have a 7-foot-3 wingspan, but overall his stock was at a new low following the event. It made sense for him to return, which is something he expected to do throughout the process given his comments upon declaring.

"My plan is to come back," Hayes said at an awards dinner according to the Wisconsin State-Journal. "The whole testing the waters thing is what it is. It's testing the waters. That's why they changed the rule to allow players to be able to do that."

Now, Hayes will lead a Wisconsin team that likely will be in the top 20 nationally to start the season after its superb finish to the 2016 season. Looking forward to his prospects for next year, look for Hayes particularly to focus on shooting the ball better from distance. If he can become a legitimate threat from distance, it would really open his game due to his ability to draw fouls inside as well as his already-demonstrated passing ability. His length and positional versatility should keep him on draft boards, but the ability to make an impact on offense will be the make or break skill in terms of whether or not he can earn the right to be selected on draft night in 2017.

There's still a lot to like about Hayes' game. It just wasn't the year for him this time around.

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Nigel Hayes will return for his senior season at Wisconsin. USATSI
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