A new name has emerged with Florida men's basketball recruiting, and that's Bradley Hayes, a 6-foot 11, 250 pound center prospect from Jacksonville (Fla.) Sandalwood.
Hayes first popped up on Inside the Gators radar in February when he had a triple double - 22 points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocked shots - in a win over Flagler Palm Coast.
At that time Sandalwood head coach Rocky Cusack had this to say about his senior post player:
"He's a good kid, this is the first season that he's been healthy so people are finally getting to see him play at full strength."
Hayes remained under the radar for most of his senior year, receiving interest from a couple of programs such as North Florida and Jacksonville University, who have followed him for some time. Recently a number of established high major schools have taken notice. He now has offers from Memphis, Georgetown, UConn, Georgia and Arkansas. While other programs such as Florida State, Texas A&M, North Carolina, Oklahoma State and Florida have expressed interest.
"In 10th grade I hurt myself pretty bad and it took me that full year to recover from it," said Hayes. And the injury stopped me from being at school. And how it goes down here is if you're out of school when it's time to take the end of year exams they automatically give you a zero on it. I couldn't get to school because I was immobile so they gave me zeros on all those tests which brought my grades down real bad and kept me from playing until I got my grades up. I started playing at the end of my 11th grade year. Then I was able to play my first full year this year." Where does Florida stand in the mix?
"They just started recruiting me this week," Hayes said. Probably at the beginning of the week they started calling coach Cusack and I spoke to Billy Donovan and the assistant coach (Matt McCall) a couple of nights ago. Me and my mom spoke to them. From what it seemed like he's pretty interested in me. He wants to come down and watch me work out Friday (4/13) if he can and go from there. Coach Donovan said he wanted to come see what the talk is all about."
With his recruitment just now taking off, Hayes doesn't have a favorite, but he indicated that he has a high level of interest in Florida, Memphis and Georgetown.
ITG Breakdown: As an unsigned senior Hayes is playing for the Dwight Howard Warriors on the travel circuit this spring. ITG watched him at the Florida Travel Team Jamboree last month. Hayes is a back to the basket post player that runs the floor well and has good feet which allow him to get where he needs to be offensively and defensively. He can create havoc in the paint with his size and length. Unfortunately in the game we saw he didn't get many touches but he did show nice form on a 10-foot jump shot. You could also see that the young man works hard and has a high ceiling.
Hayes will not be an instant impact big man or program changer at the next level, but the young man has some tools to work with and his play this season which he said included him averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks would seem to bode well for being a solid contributor a year or two down the line.
Shot blocking and rebounding are skills that translate well from high school to college. Hayes' best basketball appears to be ahead of him. If Donovan likes what he sees at Sandalwood's workout, Hayes' dream of getting a scholarship offer from Florida could be realized.