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Hayes prepares for return to pro basketball while continuing fight against NCAA

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Roughly three years ago, Nigel Hayes was starring at the Kohl Center. Now, he's balling at his house.

"Fortunately, I have a hoop outside in the back yard. So, I can at least shoot and get some shots up."

Hayes returned to Toledo, Ohio when the coronavirus outbreak halted his season with BC Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania, the latest stop on his basketball odyssey.

"The goal is always still to continue to work and get better and get back in the NBA."

While in the United States, Hayes has been able to catch up on the latest developments regarding the NCAA's recent recommendation that student-athletes be allowed to profit from their name, image and likeness in certain scenarios. The recommendation is not yet a rule, which is what Hayes has been fighting for as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the NCAA.

"I think the lawsuit has been the spearhead and the front-runner of these other laws and changes that you're now starting to see."

Hayes was an outspoken critic of the NCAA system that refused to allow players to profit from using their name, image or likeness. By speaking out, he received criticism while with the Badgers.

"A lot of, 'Don't be ungrateful.' Or a lot of people saying, 'You should feel lucky. You get to get an education.'."

Hayes attempted to take the next step in his protest by suggesting to his teammates they boycott the Syracuse game during his senior season. He offered the suggestion on a group chat. Several teammates voiced support for the idea, but as soon as one player voiced concern, the team backed off of the idea.

"Once one guy said no, it kind of went out the window. I think now, looking back at it, if we could do it again, I'm pretty sure that answer would change."

The boycott never happened but Hayes has certainly played a part in drawing attention to the fight for student-athletes' rights.

"It's definitely good to be seeing that what you were doing is actually starting to show and make change in the world."

For now, Hayes is focused on a return to the NBA. He played nine games during his rookie season.

However, Hayes is also cultivating other interests off the court. He has started a clothing brand called 'Wise God'. You can check it out at: https://wise-god.com/

Lance Veeser

Sports Director, 27 News

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