October 18, 2008
By David Driver
For the News & Messenger
Used with permission
College Park, Md.— Head coach Gary Williams said several of his guards have the ability to bring the ball up the court this season.
Chuck Driesell, one of his assistants, said “in a perfect world” the team would have made a decision on its main point guard for the upcoming season.
And Greivis Vasquez, who played point guard last year for Maryland, said Williams “is going to rotate me and Eric Hayes (at the point). We are just going to alternate. We are working on that. It is still early.”
But junior guard Hayes, the former Potomac High star, sounded as if he would be back at the point for the Terps this year.
“That is the plan,” Hayes said here Thursday, during the annual media day for the University of Maryland men’s basketball team. “I am comfortable with the point. I am very comfortable playing that position.”
“I am ready for it,” added Hayes, 21, who played the point in high school and as a Maryland freshman. “I want to be playing the point. I think it is something that will make the team better.”
Said Williams: “I think you will see a lot of people on the ball. Eric, I think, he is a very good point guard. That is where he is comfortable. That is where he played in high school. We will see how it goes.”
While there seemed to be some disconnect on the topic Thursday, a few things are clear as Hayes begins his third college season: he appears healthy after an ankle injury last winter, it was “strictly rumors” he would transfer and he benefited from spending about 10 days this summer working out with former Terp guard Steve Blake in Oregon.
Some have compared Hayes to Blake, the point guard who led Maryland to the 2002 national title and now plays for Portland in the NBA.
“”I don’t think it has been a burden,” Hayes said of that comparison. “I want to be myself.”
Hayes’ father, Kendall, his former coach at Potomac, had been in contact with Blake. And with the blessing of coach Williams, Hayes headed west.
“My dad came up with the idea. We worked out two times a day,” Hayes said. “He told me some of the things he did at Maryland. I think it is really going to help me a lot. He has learned a lot from playing in the NBA.”
Did Blake give Hayes some advice of playing for the intense Williams, who also played guard for the Terps?
“We didn’t talk too much about that,” said the 6-foot-4 Hayes, with a grin.
Hayes was primarily the shooting guard last season, when he averaged 9.9 points and 4.5 assists per game and was fourth in the ACC in assist-to-turnover ratio.
“It was a pretty big adjustment,” said Hayes, who scored 1,698 points in four years at Potomac High. “I think I did a pretty good job. I am comfortable playing either position.”
“Physically he has matured,” Driesell said of Hayes. “That will be a big plus for Eric. He kind of wore down a little bit at the end of last season.”
Hayes said his ankle injury did bother him last season.
“I don’t know if I will ever be 100 percent. (The ankle) is feeling very good. I wanted to do what I could to come back. I don’t regret coming back. I don’t want to use any excuses with my ankle,” he said.
Vasquez ran the point and led the team in scoring (17.0) and assists (6.8), but also averaged 4.4 turnovers per game.
Maryland was 19-15 last season and settled for a spot in the NIT tournament. The Terps have missed the NCAA tourney three of the past four years.
“It is very important to be consistent. We lost some games we should have won last year,” Hayes said.
Maryland, which held Midnight Madness at the Comcast Center on Friday, will open its season at home Nov. 14 against Bucknell of the Patriot League.
While the point guard question is not totally answered, there is little doubt where Hayes wants to be for the opening tip in four weeks.
“Definitely the point guard position is my most comfortable position,” he said.