Senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes’ career was supposed to be over, but his surprise announcement on the evening of the men’s basketball banquet informed fans and teammates that he would be returning for a fifth year. The NCAA had awarded him a fifth year of eligibility.
During the banquet, the seniors came up one by one to give farewell speeches. First, managers, Benjamin Coen and Christian Keenum spoke, followed by senior guard Riyan Williams, and then it was Hayes’ turn. As he went through his speech, those in attendance awaited reflections on his career.
“Being up there trying to give whatever little talk I was giving, it was just chewing away at me,” Hayes said. “I just wanted to blurt it out. The guys were pretty excited. I can tell that with all them their body language was different.”
Upon Hayes’ announcement, the room stagnated before erupting into cheers. Employees of the athletic department, teammates, friends and family all heard the news that Hayes would be returning for an unexpected fifth season.
The exact reasoning behind the NCAA’s ruling remains unclear.
“I don’t really know any of the details like that. [Head Coach John Thompson III] and I haven’t really talked about it,” Hayes said with regard to what qualified him for the extra year. “As I far I knew he just told me that I got my year back and we were going to talk about it a little bit later. As far as all the details go, I don’t know about that yet.”
Traditionally, the NCAA grants medical hardship redshirts for players who miss entire seasons due to injuries. These redshirts, however, usually happen within the season, not three years after the fact.
Georgetown’s roster has two such players, with sophomore forward Paul White receiving one for his season-long hip injury this past season, and junior forward Akoy Agau gaining an extra year for a season ending injury at Louisville.
While the details surrounding Hayes return remain hazy, he will almost definitely return as a captain and step into even more of a leading role next season — much like Smith-Rivera this past year.
“I [said] to him … ‘You’re the biggest guy on the team, your presence is always felt so your leadership and how you communicate to the guys will always be understood and always be reciprocated because of how enforceful, being the center, you can be on the floor.’ That was probably my only advice for him,” Smith-Rivera said of his words to the team’s likely new leader.
Looking forward to Hayes’ return and its impact on the players, the rest of the men’s basketball team (15-18, 7-11 Big East) returns its leading rebounder and fourth-leading scorer.
Moreover, the return of Hayes brings mentorship that players with less experience cannot.
“[My teammates] were questioning who has going to help [freshman center Jesse Govan] out down low next year because the coaches just haven’t really been recruiting any big men that I have heard of,” Hayes said with regards to his role into mentoring the team’s young big men. “So once they found out that I was coming back, I think they were pretty excited.”
Much like Smith-Rivera’s unexpected return last year, Hayes’ announcement once again has raised the expectations for next year. In what pundits and fans would have considered a potential rebuilding year, with Smith-Rivera — and previously Hayes — slated to leave, the senior big man’s return has built potential among ruin.
Hayes, along the rest of the returning players, including the team’s standout sophomores, guard L.J. Peak and forward Isaac Copeland, now look upon this past season’s disappointment as a building block for the future.
“Obviously we didn’t accomplish [our goal of making the tournament], but I think we made the proper steps to eventually make it there,” Hayes said. “What we see as a bad season is kind of a learning season at the same time.”
Stepping into the vocal leadership role this coming season, the 7-footer also doubles as the oldest and most experienced player on the team. After three years of sitting on the sidelines, averaging just 3.2 minutes per game his first freshman through junior years, Hayes is ready to lead a program that, despite its recent shortcomings, is still one of the most prestigious basketball names in the country.
Following in the steps of then-seniors Jason Clark, Markel Starks, Jabril Trawick and Smith-Rivera, the Hoyas are now Hayes’ team.
“I’m not trying to sound selfish or anything like that; I think everybody has their time,” Hayes said. “I think now is just going to be my time, so I’m going to try to make the best of what I can do with it.”
As pages to another season of Hayes have turned, the Smith-Rivera chapter of Georgetown basketball is over. He will graduate as the program’s fifth all-time leading scorer and its all-time leader in three-pointers made.
“I thought I’d never see the day where I was giving my speech going away from Georgetown,” Smith-Rivera said regarding his advice to the returning Hoyas. “It’s bittersweet, but they [should] enjoy the time while they still have it.”
The men’s basketball season tips off on Nov. 12.
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