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Former Wisconsin star Nigel Hayes is not popular with anonymous NBA scouts.

Anonymous scouts take aim at Nigel Hayes, the start of our Most Important Badgers series and more

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Today is Monday, June 12, and this is what’s for breakfast.

Nigel Hayes not popular with scouts

Few things carry less weight leading up to the NBA draft than opinions of anonymous scouts. Given their promise of anonymity, it’s not wise to accept the comments at face value. Those scouts have an agenda just like everyone else, so the words need to be taken with a grain of salt. That includes the words found in a piece from Seth Davis at his new website, Seth’s Draft House.

The former Sports Illustrated writer interviewed five scouts to get their opinions on some of the bigger names in the June 22 draft and gave them total anonymity. The ability to get “unvarnished” thoughts, as Davis called them, is vital to the piece, but also leads to zero accountability for the words. And it results in a rather harsh evaluation for Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes.

“I don’t think he’s an NBA player. Everyone was disappointed in the condition he reported in at the combine. You wonder if he’s focused on being a basketball player or are his outside interests more important to him. It seems like he regressed from last year. I am not a fan. He can really pass, I love that about him, high IQ. He just didn’t get any better from his sophomore year. He doesn’t hang his hat on one thing. He has below average athleticism. Who’s he gonna guard?”

There’s some truth in there, including the idea that he doesn’t have one elite trait that stands out. But parts of the description also smacks of someone who watched Hayes from afar and doesn’t actually know him. Saying his outside interests are potentially more important than basketball is trash. Did he value getting an education? Yep. Is he more than willing to speak up when he feels passionately about a social issue? Of course. But this is also a guy who spent as much time in a gym as any Wisconsin player in recent memory and has been in California almost from the day the season ended, preparing for the entire draft process.

Hayes may end up not being an NBA player, but it won’t be a result of his outside interests. Unlike the NFL, the NBA does not discourage playing basketball and being a voice for change. And anyone who thinks Hayes shortchanges one because of the other simply hasn’t done their homework.

Most Important Badgers for 2017

During the next several weeks will be unveiling our list of the Most Important Badgers for 2017. This is not a list of the 25 best players on the team. Instead, it’s the 25 players and coaches most vital to the Badgers’ success this fall. The goal was to rank the players based on which of them hold the key for Wisconsin to earn its third Big Ten West title in four seasons. Factors that came into play were past success, what was said about them by their coaches this offseason and what type of season could be expected from them.

No. 25 — Guard Beau Benzschawel

Who: A tight end in high school and a tackle the first 16 months he was on the Madison campus, Beau Benzschawel has started the last 16 games at right guard for Wisconsin. The Grafton, Wis., native was up-and-down his sophomore season, playing well for a majority of the year but also struggling in marquee games against Michigan and Ohio State. The 6-foot-6 Benzschawel certainly wasn’t alone in that, as both teams featured premiere talent along the defensive line in 2016. Even with those blips on the radar, he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches.

Why here: While Wisconsin is thin at tackle, the team has quality depth along the interior of the line. That’s not to say the Badgers wouldn’t miss Benzschawel if he were out, but with junior Micah Kapoi and the versatile Michael Deiter more than capable of playing right guard, Wisconsin would be able to weather the storm better at this position than at other spots.

Big back

Wisconsin has its running back for 2018, and he definitely fits the mold of what most people think a Badgers runner should look like. Nakia Watson, a 5-11, 215-pound back from Austin, Texas, gave his verbal commitment on Friday, according to Rivals.com. A day later, he made it official.

Wisconsin was Watson’s lone Power 5 scholarship offer, with others coming from North Texas, Bowling Green and Ohio, among others. While he may lack an impressive offer list, his film makes up for it, including this 95-yard touchdown run during his junior season that shows his vision, patience and strength.

A 3-star recruit according to 247 Sports, Watson is commitment No. 11 for the Badgers in 2018, and apparently according to Watson, the only running back the Badgers will take in the class. That’s a bit of surprise with some of the others they’ve been chasing, so we’ll see if that ends up being the case.

Catching up

  • Wisconsin signee Jonathan Taylor added another title to his track résumé last weekend.
  • Student season tickets for football and hockey go on sale Monday morning.
  • SI.com lists former Badgers OL Ryan Ramczyk among the 10 most important players on the New Orleans Saints.