Former McDonald’s All-American and SEC All-Freshman selection Madison Hayes transferred from Mississippi State to NC State for a plethora of reasons, not all of them related to basketball. The former East Hamilton superstar guard averaged 4.7 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Bulldogs as a spot starter before entering her name into the transfer portal after the season.
The Chattanooga native and SEC All-Freshman Team honoree said the NC State coaching staff, headed by former UT-Chattanooga coach Wes Moore, was just one reason she chose to commit to the Wolfpack.
The 6’0 guard also cited the university’s sterling communications and broadcast program as a selling point.
“I’m majoring in communications, so I want to be a broadcaster for somewhere like ESPN. NC State has a good program for communications and sports broadcasting,” Hayes said. “I’ve talked to (college basketball analyst and NC State alum) Debbie Antonelli and she’s talked a lot about sports journalism and what it takes to succeed.”
The newest member of the Wolfpack team had a “no-contact” stipulation next to her name when she put her name in the portal, which meant coaches vying for her talents had to speak with her parents. This doubtlessly was an advantage for coach Wes Moore, who Hayes said has known her family for years.
“Coach Moore reached out to my parents, and he had a plan for not just college basketball, but for the future,” Hayes said. “If it’s not the WNBA, if that’s not my dream anymore, then I know they can help me outside of basketball in my life.”
For now, Hayes will focus on making her mark as one of many talented Wolfpack players who return their top six players from a team that came within one missed shot of possibly advancing to the Elite Eight. Jada and Raina Perez, Jakia Brown-Turner, and Kai Crutchfield are all highly-skilled wings who Hayes will be competing for minutes against.
“I feel like something they need is rebounding and defense,” Hayes said, who can shuffle between the guard and forward positions. “But I’m not just going to be a defender. I also want to be aggressive on offense. Coach Moore wants to make my offensive game better.”
Even though Hayes has the talent to get baskets in the ACC, coach Moore highlighted her defensive versatility and toughness under the boards as two of her most valuable skills in a statement to the media.
“Defensively, her combination of strength and quickness allows her to be a lockdown defender,” coach Moore said. “These same attributes make her a relentless rebounder on both ends of the court. We’re excited to add the talent and toughness of Madison to the NC State program.”
Even though Hayes will probably not be asked to carry much of an offensive load in the beginning, she has four years to develop her scoring bag. While her size helped her get buckets in a decorated prep career, coach Moore and his staff are looking to add finesse and guile to her repertoire. Hayes only got to the line around one time per game, and more moves should help increase that number.
“The coaches want to work on my first step off the bounce and my quickness,” Hayes said. “I think that having hesitation moves and being able to change speeds so I can get to the basket or pull up for a shot, and being able to create are things we’re going to work on.”
Hayes called her one year in Starkville a “learning experience,” and that she can take those learned lessons with her to NC State’s campus. She believed she adjusted to the speed and increased skill level of major division I basketball well.
Hayes said her experience playing with and against great AAU teams that featured Kentucky stars Rhyne Howard and Treasure Hunt (and current teammate Genesis Bryant) helped this process.
“I learned that no matter what happens, you should always play hard,” Hayes said. “A lot of people see that you’re working hard on and off the court, and this year was about getting better.”
Hayes hasn't been able to partake in NC State’s spring workouts yet, since she’s still finishing up her spring semester at Mississippi State. Hayes said she’s set to join the team in mid-May, where she will be a part of a freshman class that includes Aziaha James, Sophie Hart, and Jessica Timmons. As she said earlier, Hayes will have four years of eligibility left.
“I just feel like it’s the best for me,” Hayes said. “They have a great plan for not just me, but the whole team, and we’re there to win national championships.”
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