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April 16, 2014
One year later, Hayes solid in decision
Shortly after he committed to Florida last June a picture displaying Kevarrius Hayes' impressive wingspan was tweeted by Nike Team Florida. While it was that tweet which first generated a buzz about Billy Donovan's first commitment in the Class of 2015, it was his highlight tape that drove home the point that despite his so-so ranking, the Suwannee (Live Oak) forward has the potential to be special.
Coming up on the one year anniversary of his pledge, Inside The Gators sat down to talk with Hayes following Sunday's Nike Team Florida practice and get caught up with the soft spoken, easy-going junior.
Though Florida's coaching staff has been busy recently with their Final Four run in the NCAA Tournament, the staff still made time to check in on Hayes.
"Coach Pelphrey would text to see how I'm doing although not that much during the tournament," Hayes said. "I think it was last week, I got an update from Coach McCall. I told him it was a tough loss but I congratulated him. They did make it to the final four."
While some committed prospects take it upon themselves to lobby for other kids to join them, for his part Hayes said he seldom talks to Gator coaches about other kids he thinks would be a good fit at Florida.
"No, I don't get involved with all that. They do a pretty good job as it is. I don't think they need my help," he said.
As for his season at Suwannee High School, Hayes said he didn't notice opposing players amping up their intensity when facing him due to his Florida commitment, but acknowledged that players and fans alike were aware that he was a future Gator.
"Every now and then someone would ask me between games, 'Are you going to Florida?' or something like that."
At the time of his commitment to Florida, Hayes was also receiving interest from Alabama, Kansas State, Miami and Mercer.
"I was really looking forward to Florida offering and when they did it made my whole day. Committing (early) has made it easier for me. There's less stress having to look into and research what college I want to attend," said Hayes.
As you would expect from an in-state prospect, Hayes is well aware of the history of Florida's basketball program and fully embraces the challenge and expectations of playing where players such as Marreese Speights, Al Horford, Chandler Parsons, David Lee & Joakim Noah played.
"It means that I'm going to be at a place where history has been made and I hope to make some of my own," he said. "Their names are known after they're gone because of how well they played and it is motivation to be like them so that my name sticks around after I'm gone."
With his recruit process over and done with Hayes is able to focus on reaching the goals he and his Nike Team Florida 17U teammates have for this year.
"We want to go as far as we can," Hayes said. "Last year we made it to Nationals but we got second. This year we're motivated to win it all, we really felt like we should have won it last year. Every tournament we go to we're putting it all out on the floor. We're trying to win every tournament we play in to prove we're as good as we are."
Joining the NTF 17U team this year is the Rivals No. 15 ranked sophomore, Potter's House Christian Academy Center Udoka Azubuikie.
"He's a good player. He's got the ideal body type for a big man (6-foot-11, 255 pounds). He's only 15 so he's still pretty young. He's a good teammate on and off the court, he's a nice kid overall," said Hayes.
And is Hayes in Azubuikie's ear about Florida?
"I mention it every now and then."
The Nike Team Florida's 16U team features Florida's first 2016 commit, John Mooney. We asked Hayes if the two players talk about their futures as Gators.
"We haven't really sat down and actually talked about what it will be like," said Hayes. "We've joked about it every now and then. We don't talk too much outside of NTF when we meet up."
One thing Hayes wanted to make clear - he has no plans to transfer from Class 5A Suwannee High School in order to play tougher competition to prepare him for college ball.
"I think AAU has done that for me, it's really competitive," Hayes said. "I'm at Suwannee. Coach Ulmer already has planned tournaments against tougher competition so I can get more experience. So it's not like I need to go to a different school, I have everything I need right there."