The temptation with a year in review is to dwell merely on the most recent, since it is the freshest recollection imaginable.
This would be a great service to Eric Hayes, who reached double figures in scoring five straight times just once all season —- in the five contests Maryland played in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
Indeed, the man coach Gary Williams dubbed a “finisher” even after he was handed sixth-man duty (albeit sixth-man duty with the minutes of a starter) played exceptionally well in the final two weeks of the season.
Hayes averaged 9.5 points in 30 regular-season games. In the two tournaments, he clocked in at 15.2 points.
It was a different Hayes in those games. He was more aggressive, more sure of himself and more apt for a two-minute flurry of scoring to make you wonder just where that sort of outburst was all season.
And that’s when you remember that for much of January, Hayes didn’t exactly put the “shooting” in shooting guard. In an eight-game stretch, he shot 30.4 percent. Maryland was 3-5 in that spurt, which began with a loss to Morgan State.
It’s not that Hayes doesn’t possess value when his shots (particularly from outside) aren’t falling. It’s just that it’s limited to when he does everything else really well —- like serve up 11 assists in a January defeat of Virginia.
It was that midseason slump that precipitated Williams’ decision to swap Hayes and Sean Mosley. And while a fair bit was made of how the move helped both players and the team overall, there’s just as good a chance that Hayes would have progressed to the mean on his own.
After all, the guy shot 42.0 percent as a freshman, 42.7 percent as a sophomore and 42.8 percent as a junior. Just go ahead and pencil in 43 percent or so for next year.
Yes, his outside shooting dipped a little bit, and it’s probably fair to ascribe some of that to the one-foot adjustment in the 3-point line (remember that?).
But in the end, his scoring average still rose slightly despite playing fewer minutes, and his assist/turnover ratio landed at a more-than-laudable 1.83 (even if it did dip from his 1.89 as a sophomore).
In short, the third chapter of Hayes’ career further solidified the perception his on-court performance mirrors his even-keel personality. Even with the midseason slump, Hayes simply took it all in, evaluated, adjusted and ultimately played his best down the stretch.
There are two lessons woven into that heading forward. One is to not expect a slump (should Hayes encounter another one next season) to linger long.
The other is that everyone should have sufficient idea of what Hayes will provide as a senior, especially if Greivis Vasquez returns to shoulder a good chunk of the offensive load, and it shouldn’t be overestimated simply because of five superb games at the end.
That’s why this is an ideal time to roll out some quick glances in the profiles of each of Maryland’s juniors noting where exactly they’ll land on Maryland’s career lists should they precisely duplicate their just-completed seasons next year —- while also factoring in whatever progress Vasquez would be expected to make up any list as well.
Here’s Hayes’ rundown:
Points: 1,189 (32nd all-time, between Larry Gibson and Mike Jones)
Assists: 494 (sixth all-time, between John Lucas and Duane Simpkins)
Steals: 138 (14th all-time, between Nik Caner-Medley and Derrick Lewis)
3-pointers made: 186 (tied for fourth with Johnny Rhodes, just ahead of Steve Blake)
That would be an above average college career, with consistency serving as Hayes’ hallmark.
It’s the reason he’s Williams’ finisher. It’s the reason he was Maryland’s bellwether (the Terps were 16-5 when he reached double figures, 5-9 when he didn’t). And it’s why there’s no reason to believe Hayes’ performance as a senior will be dramatically different than his sophomore and junior seasons.
—- Patrick Stevens