Let’s get this out of the way. In the case of Eric Hayes vs. Steve Blake, any jury would find unanimously for Steve Blake. After all, Steve Blake was the starting point guard upon his arrival in College Park. Hayes has not been able to prove that he is the best point guard in his own recruiting class.
Blake never appeared tentative. Hayes rarely appears sure of himself. Blake always played at full speed. Hayes has done so only on occassion. When Hayes has the ball, he seems to be moving in slow motion. Usually this leads to him either getting trapped, or making a telegraphed pass. Sometimes those two things occur in tandem.
It remains to be seen if Hayes’ slowness is simply a genetic flaw or caused by his uncertainty about the Terps’ offense and his position within it. At this juncture in his career, Eric Hayes is incapable of penetrating to the hole in the half court set. That dog won’t hunt in Division I.
Steve Blake could get into the lane almost at will. Deceptively quick, Blake could almost always take his man off the dribble. Once in the lane, he made the right pass every time.
To be fair, Blake played with better players than Hayes does. It is easy to rack up assists with Juan Dixon draining threes and hitting 10 footers. Oh, and Blake also had two legit post players to feed (Wilcox and Baxter).
Nevertheless, Hayes plays with a tentativeness that Blake never displayed. Eric is the son of a coach. He should be able to pick up the flex offense in his sleep. Why does he play like he is clueless out there?
I can think of two explanations:
He is completely overmatched in the ACC. He lacks the quickness to compete at this level. If true, Hayes’ lack of basic athletic ability would be an indictment of Gary Williams and the entire coaching staff. How did they not see that he was a step slow in high school. What’s more, Hayes was rated one of the top point guards in the nation coming out of high school. How could all of those recruiting gurus been so wrong?
The second, and in my opinion, more likely option is that he has played out of position for two years. Perhaps I am talking myself into this, but because Hayes has been the best shooter on the team during his two years in College Park; that forced the shooting guard role upon him. In a way, his shooting prowess has actually worked against him.
Greivis Vasquez is the best player on the team and needs to be out on the floor, but he can’t play shooting guard. He’s not accurate enough. Williams could never commit to Hayes as the point guard because Greivis is not reliable as a catch and shoot guy. Thus, Hayes was relegated to the two.
This argument has been played out ad nauseum by Terp fans everywhere. I think that is because it remains unanswered. If Gary commits to Hayes as the point guard, will Eric’s confidence return? So far, Gary has been unwilling to make that gamble. I think it is clear that no matter what, we will be seeing less of Vasquez at point guard next season. Hayes should have his chance to prove that he run the offense.
Next year’s newcomers will provide the answer as to Gary’s intentions with Hayes. My guess is that Bobby Maze would not have been offered a scholarship if Gary felt that Hayes could handle the PG duties.
The good news is that we get to find out in seven short months.