Longhorn Standout Jaxson Hayes is a Pelican


Jaxson Hayes is headed to New Orleans. After a stellar freshman year at Texas, where he averaged 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game, the Hawks chose Hayes with the eighth pick in the 2019 NBA Draft on Thursday evening, as part of a proposed trade to New Orleans.

Hayes is the second straight lottery pick for the Longhorns (Mo Bamba, 2018), the third straight first-rounder (Jarrett Allen, 2017), and the fourth in five years (Myles Turner, 2015).

Hayes joins a frontcourt that includes incumbent center Jahlil Okafor and 2019 No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, from Duke.

“It’s going to be really exciting, I know that,” Hayes said immediately after the draft, about pairing with Williamson.

Scouting reports on the almost-seven-footer almost unanimously praise his instincts, work ethic, and skills around the basket, but note that his wiry frame has to fill out for him to be able to rebound in the NBA.

“It’s been crazy,” Hayes said after the draft. “Two years ago today I was on a high school team not playing and now I’m a lottery pick.”

Hayes was an incredibly late bloomer. In a recent Yahoo Sports article, Texas men’s basketball head coach Shaka Smart recalls watching Hayes glide down the court at an AAU tournament in Atlanta two years ago.

“He was very raw, but he looked like he had great potential,” Smart said. “I remember texting my staff to say, ‘Who is this guy?’” Hayes didn’t start a game until his senior year, when he quit football to concentrate on basketball.

The 6-foot-11 center came to Texas as just the 89th-ranked prospect in the 2018 class, according to ESPN, but quickly emerged as a premier shot blocker and inside scorer in the NCAA. He broke the UT field-goal percentage record, shooting 72.8 percent from the field, en route to winning Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

Hayes’ season came to an end on March 14, when he suffered a knee injury during a game against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament. He missed the Longhorns’ subsequent NIT championship run.

Photo courtesy of Texas Athletics.


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