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Toledoan Hayes continues to thrive with help of slight

03/15/2014, 1:31am EDT

INDIANAPOLIS — After Toledo native Nigel Hayes was named the Big Ten’s sixth man of the year this week, his parents publicly sent their thanks to two schools.

"I want to thank the coach who didn't think Nigel was ready to play college ball," his father, Albert Davis, wrote in a message on Twitter. "And a BIG THANK YOU to Coach Ryan who had a plan for him!!!!"

Coach Ryan was Bo Ryan at Wisconsin, where Hayes has enjoyed a superb freshman season. The Whitmer graduate had 15 points and six rebounds in the Badgers’ 83-57 win over Minnesota in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal on Friday night.

The other school?

"I really don’t remember," Hayes said with a wink and a smile. "I have no idea."

Many presumed the program was Hayes’ dream school, Ohio State. But he insisted it wasn’t. Buckeyes coach Thad Matta came in with a late scholarship offer and has praised Hayes, saying the 6-foot-7, 250-pound forward saw a better situation at Wisconsin.

"No, I don’t think it was them," Hayes said. "From what they were telling me, they were telling me I could compete and contribute right away."

Hayes only said the mystery school who did not believe he was ready has offered ample motivation.

"I didn’t hear those words, but just the fact that they were out there, players are always looking for something to get them going," he said. "And I consider that my Dorito or Frito chip on my shoulder."

As for Ohio State, he said he feels no vindication with his early success.

"No, not at all," said Hayes, who has averaged eight points this season. "That’s the way college recruiting works. Coaches go for the players that they see would help their system. I wasn’t necessarily high on their priority list, which is all right. You just have to move on to the next thing. I’m happy where I’m at right now, and I’m doing pretty well."

CRAFT HONORED: Ohio State’s Aaron Craft was named one of six finalists for the Bob Cousy Award presented to the nation’s top college point guard.

Craft is joined by UConn’s Shabazz Napier, UCLA’s Kyle Anderson, Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige, and Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet.

T SPARKS OSU: Matta no doubt rolled his eyes when Buckeyes forward LaQuinton Ross shoved a Nebraska player Friday. Ohio State trailed 42-30, and the push drew Ross’ fourth technical in the past seven games.

But ...

“I’m not saying it was the right thing, but it sparked our team,” Ross said after the Buckeyes’ stunning 71-67 win. “We got a little angry after that. They were shoving a little bit after the whistle, basically trying to bully us. I don’t know what they were thinking.”

—David Briggs

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