Our player profiles series turns to the upperclassmen, the first of whom, junior center, Bradley Hayes, is a veteran and yet still an unknown. With few front-court minutes spoken for but plenty of competition for that time, will Hayes break through as a junior?
16 games played, 3.2 min. pg, .9 ppg, .9 rpg, 37.5 FG%
Hayes was given little meaningful playing time in his sophomore season and didn't show much in those minutes to suggest that he deserved to be on the court more often. The Jacksonville, Fla. product played in 16 games but only 2 (or, if you want to count the waning minutes of the blowout loss at Villanova, 3) involved any meaningful minutes. In that very small sample size, we saw Hayes score his first career points, putting the ball in the hole a few times and earning several trips to the line. He drew a bunch of fouls, but not nearly as many as he committed, getting whistled eight times in 24 combined minutes at Marquette and Florida State. He grabbed a few rebounds and blocked a couple of shots. On the whole, though, he didn't exactly make a convincing case that Georgetown's underperforming front line should have been benched in favor of him.
All of which is okay. Hayes was brought on late in the 2012 recruiting class as a lightly-regarded but still seven-foot prospect. He was a mystery project, a low-stakes investment both in the adage that you can't teach size and in the developmental powers of Big Man U. That investment wasn't expected to pay off in Hayes' freshman year, and JT3 probably didn't feel like he had the flexibility to let Hayes learn on the job last season, however poorly the veteran bigs were performing.
The most promising suggestion that Hayes might be able to contribute in his junior season came during Kenner League play this season, when the big fella averaged 14.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. On offense, Hayes appeared comfortable in the post, getting solid position and shooting hooks with both hands. On defense, he moved into good help position, although sometimes a step too late. Hayes' most noticeable contribution was on the boards, where he actively sought out rebounds, including out of his area.
Of course, this summer league play comes with plenty of caveats. Hayes remains very foul-prone and his numbers reflect the Kenner League's more liberal fouling standards, which allowed him to stay on the court more often. His scoring numbers, especially from the post, are inflated by Kenner's guard-heavy rosters, some of which did not include a player within half a foot of Hayes. Even so, Hayes looked better this summer than last, raising the possibility that he might be a rotation player in the season to come.
Whether and how much Hayes plays in the coming season depends not just on his progress as a player, but also roster make-up and the contributions of others in the front court.
Let's just assume that Joshua Smith stays on the court and eligible for the whole season. Smith is a low-post beast who occupies the lane, mostly for good, on offense. Smith's residency in the middle of the court affects what the other Hoyas, particularly slashing guards, can do with the ball. When Smith sits, JT3 may opt for Mikael Hopkins, more mobile than Smith and Hayes, as a small-ball center who frees up the lane on offense and can cover more of the court if Georgetown extends its defense. Whether Hopkins in fact spends most of his time at center or, instead, at power forward depends both on JT3's lineup preference and on how many of the forward minutes are being eaten up by some combination of Isaac Copeland, Aaron Bowen, Paul White, Reggie Cameron, and Jabril Trawick (the last, in three-guard alignments).
Despite this front-court clutter, Hayes figures to make his way into the rotation on at least a semi-regular basis. Smith has been more of a platoon player than a full-time starter most of his career, topping out at about 25 minutes. He and Hopkins both are foul-prone and Hayes is the only other big on the roster. Finally, Hopkins will see some, perhaps most, minutes at the power forward. While those lineups will cramp Georgetown's offensive spacing, it will free up more minutes for Hayes.
Hayes takes a big step forward and becomes a consistent rotation player. He's an effective rebounder, a decent rim-protector and post defender, and occasional finisher. He keeps his fouls to a minimum, playing longer stretches in blowouts and when Smith or Hopkins battles foul trouble. Hayes plays 5 to 10 minutes per game regularly and sets the stage for a successful senior season.
Hayes can't stop fouling long enough to stay on the court. Georgetown's smaller lineups with Copeland and White at the four prove so successful that Hopkins plays virtually all of his time backing up Smith, leaving no minutes for Hayes. Hayes doesn't get enough minutes this season to be ready for next year, when he'll be the only returning post.