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Former Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes has a big week ahead of him at the NBA combine.

NBA combine an opportunity for Nigel Hayes, Tony Granato making the walk at graduation and more

We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com 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 Wednesday, May 10, and this is what’s for breakfast.


Job interview

Nigel Hayes arrived at the NBA combine on Tuesday, knowing his time in Chicago is his one last chance to show he belongs among basketball’s best.

The six-day showcase for 67 draft hopefuls in The Windy City is a prove-it moment for the former Wisconsin forward who has more doubters than ever despite helping the Badgers to the Sweet 16 for a fourth year in a row.

Personnel men from all 30 NBA teams will converge on the Quest Multisport Complex to measure and test players, while also watching them play 5-on-5. And they’ll be seeing Hayes for a second time — he came last May to see where he stacked up before deciding to return for his final season in Madison. But there is no safety net this time around for Hayes. His college basketball is behind him and if he wants to keep playing basketball, it’ll be in the NBA, the D-League or overseas.

Unfortunately for Hayes, the excitement surrounding him as an NBA product isn’t high, certainly not anywhere close to where it was following his sophomore season, when some were projecting him to be a late first-round or early second-round pick. And despite his contention late this season that a senior version of himself would dominate the sophomore version, the draft is about potential more than what you are at the time you get picked. His four seasons in school haven’t resulted in his inclusion in many mock drafts, including those from Land of 10 and DraftExpress.

This isn’t necessarily a death sentence. Getting picked in the second round or going the undrafted free-agent route can work. The Milwaukee Bucks took four-year college player Malcolm Brogdon out of Virginia in the second round in 2016, and he is in the running for Rookie of the Year.

Hayes has an uphill climb to repeating that type of success. Concerns about the 6-foot-6 Hayes’ position in the NBA and his outside shot are among the reasons some don’t think he can make it. His retort should be, and likely is, that he’s versatile and can guard multiple positions, is a skilled passer, and can do things without the ball in his hands to win games. All of those — good and bad — are true.

The next five days may not make or break the career of Hayes, but it will certainly play a role in how and where it starts.

Making the walk

Tony Granato never played a down of football inside Camp Randall Stadium, but the 100-year-old venue will be the site of one of his greatest accomplishments this Saturday when the Wisconsin hockey coach receives his college diploma. It’ll come 30 years after Granato finished his hockey career for the Badgers and just shy of 14 months since returning as the school’s coach.

Tony Granato left Wisconsin in 1987 to pursue a career in the NHL that started with the New York Rangers and lasted 13 seasons overall. (Getty Images)

The decision to finish his schooling really wasn’t a choice — all head coaches at Wisconsin must have a four-year undergraduate degree. But it was something the coach wanted to do and he returned to Madison just 15 credits shy of making happen. While that’s a semester worth of work for the average student, Granato has, understandably, spread it over three semesters — last summer, the fall and then this spring.

It’s a remarkable achievement. And it’s even more so when you consider the progress made by the program in the year since Granato, along with his vital assistants Mark Osiecki and Don Granato, came to campus. After 12 wins in the previous two seasons combined, the Badgers went 20-15-1 and made the Big Ten Tournament final, losing in double overtime to Penn State.

It helped restore some buzz to a program that had fallen on hard times. And though a trip to the NCAA Tournament fell just out of reach, the future for the soon-to-be college graduate Granato and Wisconsin is very bright.

Potential transfer

Wisconsin football has benefited greatly in recent years with transfers, and will likely do so again this season with RB Chris James (Pittsburgh) and CB Nick Nelson (Hawaii). The Badgers could be chasing another one, as well, as Texas Tech sophomore WR Jonathan Giles tweeted out his top 10 of potential transfer spots and Wisconsin made the cut.

Giles was an ultra-productive wide receiver for the Red Raiders in his first two seasons, especially in 2016 when he caught 69 balls for 1,158 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns and was Biletnikoff Award semifinalist.

It’s an impressive list of accomplishments for the 5-11, 184-pound Giles, perhaps only topped by the list of schools he’s got in his top 10. Ohio State, Florida State and LSU are all prime options for a guy as proven as Giles. But he certainly would fit a need for the Badgers. They’ve targeted a large number of wide receivers in the Class of 2018 and it’s clearly an area they feel that needs an upgrade in production and overall numbers.

Catching up

  • J.J. Watt wants to play fullback when his Houston Texans face the Pittsburgh Steelers and his linebacker brother T.J. on Christmas.
  • From Madison.com: Sentencing for former Wisconsin RB Brent Moss postponed after he reportedly tests positive for cocaine.
  • At ESPN.com, they list the five most indispensable players in the Big Ten and someone from Wisconsin made the cut.