Zak Showlater/Twitter
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and former Wisconsin G Zak Showalter at the Wisconsin Sports Awards on Thursday.

Badgers honored at the Wisconsin Sports Awards, Nigel Hayes performs at the combine and more

We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know — Monday through Friday — around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.

Today is Friday, May 12, and this is what’s for breakfast.

Badgers clean up

The Field House on the University of Wisconsin campus has been around since 1930 and has seen a lot of great games and moments in Badgers history. On Thursday night, it was the site of an event designed to honor similar moments that have taken place in the last year as it played host to the Sixth Annual Wisconsin Sports Awards, which, according to the event’s Twitter page, “recognize excellence by players, coaches and teams at the high school, college and pro levels.” And Thursday night was filled with win after win for those who actually call Madison home.

Wisconsin football coach Paul Chryst, athletic director Barry Alvarez, and former basketball players Nigel Hayes and Zak Showalter were among those with Wisconsin ties to take home awards … but they were far from the only ones.

In total, the Badgers won nine times, including Chryst (Coach of the Year), former Wisconsin OLB T.J. Watt (Breakthrough Athlete of the Year) and ex-Badgers RB James White (Homegrown Player of the Year).

Hayes, part of a senior class that won a school-record 115 basketball games in its tenure, was honored for his community involvement. He delivered his acceptance speech from a hotel room in Chicago where he’s taking part in the NBA combine; Alvarez was awarded for his contributions in making Wisconsin athletics what it is today, including his time as football coach and now as athletic director.

Overall, the night serves as a celebration of Wisconsin sports, and the Badgers are a significant part of it. Year after year the athletic department provides memorable moments and makes being a fan of the teams worthwhile. Will they break your heart at times? Sure. It happened several times in the last 12 months, including the Sweet 16 loss to Florida in March and the Big Ten title game loss to Penn State last December. But those moments hurt because of the passion fans have for their teams. The good certainly outweighs the bad, and that was on display Thursday night.

List of Wisconsin winners:

Breakthrough Athlete of the Year: T.J. Watt
Wisconsin High School Basketball Player of the Year: Kobe King
College Athlete of the Year: Lauren Carlini
Coach of the Year: Paul Chryst
Homegrown Athlete of the Year: James White
Gamechanger Award: Barry Alvarez
Moment of the Year: Wisconsin & Marquette beat No. 1 Villanova
Community Involved Athlete of the Year: Nigel Hayes
Wisconsin High School Football Player of the Year: Danny Vanden Boom

Nigel Hayes at the NBA combine

For a second straight year, Hayes is at the NBA combine. And the former Wisconsin forward is a little bigger and more explosive than when he came to Chicago last May, at least according to the testing he went through on Thursday.

Hayes weighed in at 254.2 pounds, nearly 10 pounds heavier than a year ago. But that didn’t stop him from jumping significantly better this time around, gaining 5 inches on his max vertical to 33 feet, 5 inches, fifth-best among power forwards. All of his other numbers compared favorably to last year, as well.

In the scrimmage portion of the day, Hayes was active with 5 points on 2-of-5 shooting, 4 rebounds and 3 blocks. It was a bit of a rusty start for Hayes, who hadn’t played in a truly competitive environment since the Badgers were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in late March. He’ll have another opportunity on Friday to work some of that off.

Perhaps the more interesting aspect of Hayes’ day, though, was the reaction to the commencement speech he wrote for The Players’ Tribune, which has gotten widespread praise. But at least one team brought up the issue of speaking out publicly while interviewing Hayes, according to ESPN’s Michele Steele.

That Hayes will continue to speak his mind is no surprise. He’s done it for much of the last two years at Wisconsin, and he’s has done it in a very educated matter, rarely speaking on topics he’s not well-versed in. But as a fringe second-round draft pick, will his various stances, controversial to some, impact whether a team takes him? Based on the way former San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick has struggled to find a take in free agency after kneeling during the national anthem last season, chances are that if all things are equal, Hayes may lose out to a guy who keeps his head down and doesn’t invite attention with his words.

Hopefully, at some point in time, we’ll be able to acknowledge that our athletes have a right to speak without it hurting or derailing their career. That time, unfortunately, isn’t here yet.

Frank Kaminsky, the analyst

Frank Kaminsky did not like doing interviews with the media while at Wisconsin. The center would literally celebrate the rare instances when he wasn’t requested after practice or a game. But his distaste for that belied his nature to entertain, something the country saw play out in his final season with the Badgers when the team made its run to the national title game in 2015. Whether it was awkward dancing, joking during news conferences or just being generally goofy, the true Kaminsky was on display.

Still, it’s a bit shocking for those that covered him in Madison to see his push into media when he’s not playing for the Charlotte Hornets. The former lottery pick traveled to ESPN in April to be on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt, and this week he’s in Chicago serving as an analyst for the network at the NBA combine.

All the quirkiness that reporters saw on a daily basis has been replaced by a guy who is potentially positioning himself for a post-basketball career in front of the camera. It’s a truly remarkable transition for someone clearly more comfortable in his skin than ever.

Softball advances

The Wisconsin women’s softball team got its Big Ten Tournament started off on the right foot with a 3-0 win against Iowa on Thursday, pushing the sixth-seeded Badgers into the quarterfinals on Friday against third-seeded Ohio State.

Wisconsin is now a remarkable 16-2 in neutral site games this season. In fact, in all games not played in Madison, the Badgers are 30-5, compared to just 3-9 at home. Luckily for them, the rest of their season — no matter how long it lasts — will see them on fields far away from their own campus.

Catching up

  • From Todd Milewski at Journey to graduation a long one for Wisconsin hockey coach Tony Granato.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles formally announced their undrafted free agent signings on Thursday, which includes ex-Wisconsin RB Corey Clement.
  • Wisconsin basketball’s five-member senior class will receive its diplomas on Saturday, giving the players a bond beyond all the success they had on the basketball court, according to