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Wolferetti: A closer look at Cam Hayes struggles, and why I think a late season breakout is possible.

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Cam Hayes was supposed to be one of Kevin Keatts’ main pieces coming into his sophomore season. He was expected to improve on his freshman season which saw him post 7.8 ppg, 3.1 assists, 2.4 rebounds, and 38.6% from the field (36.4% from 3).

Instead, Hayes has struggled badly, posting 7.4ppg, 2.4 assists, 2.3 rebounds, and 32.2% from the field (20.5% from 3).

Hayes added some muscle in the offseason, but it seems as if he hadn’t quite learned how to use it yet. He was still shying away from contact, still pulling up for contested jumpers in the lane, and still being forced outside the lane on drives and settling for pseudo-floaters from the block.

Hayes seemingly hit rock bottom in the scoring department during the stretch of games between 1/19 and 2/2. He was held scoreless in 4 of those 5 games, shooting just 5-23 from the field (21.7%) and 0-8 from 3 point range. In fact, since 12-29 (when full-time ACC play started) Hayes has not hit a single 3 in the rhythm of the game.

His 3 vs. Notre Dame this past weekend was forced with the shot clock down to 4. His 3 vs. Louisville was an off-balance 3 with hands in his face as the shot clock expired. And his 3 against Clemson was another off-balance 3 with hands in his face as the clock expired on the first half. That’s it. That’s all of the 3s he’s made since late December.

However, there have been some signs of improvement overall. During that span he started to show a willingness to attack the basket with a little more physicality. He was coming off the ball screens harder and forcing his way into the lane. While he still forced a few bad shots, he was also starting to find his teammates as the defense reacted to his drives.

Hayes had 12 assists and 6 turnovers (4 of which came in the first game vs. Notre Dame). That 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio isn’t bad and is something Keatts can live with from his young guard. In fact, during that span, it was the best ratio on the team.

Now, if only Hayes could start hitting a few shots, he might be able to start chipping away at reclaiming his starting PG role, a role that Keatts was forced to give to Dereon Seabron due to Hayes’ struggles.

Against Notre Dame this past weekend, Hayes showed a few glimpses of his offense coming back online. He started slow but eventually got things going. He finished with 11 points on 5-13 shooting. He also hit his first 3 since January 12th (although he was only 1-5 from 3 pt range.)

Hayes went on a little run between the 16 minutes mark of the second half until the 11:54 mark, where he hit his 3, corralled a defensive rebound, got to the lane for a layup, missed a 3, missed a jumper, got an offensive rebound and hit another jumper. During that approximately 4 minute span, Hayes scored 7 points on 3-5 shooting and brought in 2 rebounds. And while that’s really not especially crazy, it was a nice sign for a kid who had been struggling so badly in so many aspects of the game.

It’s obvious that Hayes is having confidence problems, but they didn’t just arise out of nowhere. He’s been struggling with his shot all season and those struggles have been bleeding into other parts of his game. It’s not like he’s been way off, either. He’s had a number of shots go in and out, mostly 3s. This tells you that something is just slightly off with his shot.

Usually, when a shooter is just slightly off like this, it’s an issue with the arms. Shooters will sometimes guide the ball too much, throwing their release off just a tad. So what is causing him to get arm-y with his shot? Usually, for shooters, this is a product of not having enough legs in your shot, forcing your arms to get more involved.

I went back to take a look to see what I’d find.

What I saw was interesting. Last season Hayes would always catch the ball in a deeper crouch, almost as if he was seated. His butt and legs made an acute angle. (For all you 8th-grade math wizards out there, that’s less than 90 degrees). He’d be in that crouch as he brought the ball up to near his face. However, on most of his 3s this season, you can see that he’s not very deep in his crouch when he’s initiating his shot. His butt and legs are making an obtuse angle (greater than 90 degrees.)

If you aren’t a shooter, then this probably doesn’t seem like it makes a big difference. However, any small alteration to a shooter’s stance matters in a big way. Hayes is getting less lift from his glutes, quads and hamstrings (big muscles), and forcing his calves and arms to take on the load.

Now, if you go back this season, you can also see times when Hayes will cock the ball back early (it looks like a small hitch in his shot). It’s noticeable and it’s been a miss every time he’s done it. Because of that, YouTube doesn’t have any video to examine (ACC Network only shows made shots on their highlights). However, most of the time when a shooter does that, it’s to get a little extra effort onto his shot (using his arms, and compensating for lack of legs).

All of the shots I’m showing are makes. Which shows you that even when Hayes is making shots this season, he’s not getting into the position he got in last season. Could that explain the 20% shooting from beyond the arc? Absolutely.

I’m sure this is something he’s working on, but if Hayes can start scoring, he’ll certainly raise his confidence. And if he raises his confidence, I think we start seeing the player we were hoping to see.

The past few games have shown that he’s learning to attack with more strength and looking to find the open man. If he becomes the shooter he was last season, NC State immediately adds an impact player that they’ve been missing all season long.

Now, fixing your shot doesn’t just happen in a single gym session. You might fix it, come back the next day, and muscle memory takes you back to creating the same flaws you’ve had all season. But constant gym work over the course of a week can get you there. Hayes surely has been in the gym working on his shot all season long, and the elevation and release are fine, so maybe it’s the legs. Maybe it’s that he just needs to see the ball go in the hoop a few more times.

Whatever it is, there have been more and more glimpses of Hayes starting to turn the corner, and while he hasn’t quite put it all together yet, I’m going to bet that sometime soon we see the breakout game we, and he, has been waiting for.

A pasta eatin', Wolfpack lovin' loudmouth from Raleigh by way of New Jersey. Jimmy V and Chuck Amato fanboy. All opinions are my own and you're gonna hear'em.

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Biscuit
Biscuit
2 years ago

I just dont see improvement. sorry

Papajohn
Papajohn
2 years ago

Cam’s ‘disappearance’ is just another component of this season’s disaster.
Had he improved as expected, coupled with a healthy team, the results might have been extraordinary.

NC State Basketball

Here is the 2024 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament Bracket

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The bracket for the 2024 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament is here. The 10th ranked NC State is the #2 seed in the tournament, and their first game will be on Friday at 5pm on ACC Network.

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The Wolfpack will play the winner of the Duke (7 seed) vs. Georgia Tech (10 seed)/Pitt (15 seed).

NC State defeated Pitt 83-47 on February 11th, and they defeated Georgia Tech 86-85 on February 18th.

The Wolfpack lost to Duke 58-69 on February 25th. NC State entered the game as 1.5-point favorites, but ended up losing in enemy territory.

Georgia Tech defeated Pitt 68-58 on January 7th. Duke defeated both Georgia Tech and Pitt this season, defeating the Yellow Jackets 84-46 on January 14th, and the Panthers on 69-38 on February 1st.

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NC State Basketball

There is Reason to be Frustrated

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If you are an NC State fan, it’s only reasonable that you’re frustrated with the state of the Men’s Basketball program.

Under Kevin Keatts, NC State has gone to the NCAA Tournament twice in 7 seasons. The Wolfpack didn’t win a game in the Big Dance in either of those appearances.

Keatts has led NC State to a 3-5 record in the ACC Tournament, failing to reach the semifinals a single time.

You could make an argument that his first season in Raleigh was his best (I don’t think it was), because the Wolfpack finished 5th in the ACC, which is the highest the team has finished in the conference under his watch.

2017-18 – 5th
2018-19 – 8th
2019-20 – 6th
2020-21 – 9th
2021-22 – 15th
2022-23 – 6th
2023-23 – 9th (currently)

Average finish: 8.3

(For context, in 6 seasons, Mark Gottfried’s average finish was 8.7.)

Over the past 7 seasons, NC State has been ranked in the Top-25 in only 8 polls (2 separate seasons), with the highest being on January 7th, 2019, when the Wolfpack were ranked 15th.

Under Gottfried, NC State was ranked in 13 polls (all one season). With Herb Sendek at the helm, the Wolfpack were ranked in the Top-25 in 5 different seasons, in a total of 35 polls.

Do I think Kevin Keatts is the worst coach at NC State in recent memory? No, that award goes to Sydney Lowe. In all reality, NC State’s record overall and in conference play is nearly identical under Keatts, as it was under Mark Gottfried and Herb Sendek.

(Overall/Conference)
Kevin Keatts – 58.3/48.3
Mark Gottfried – 58.9/45.3
Herb Sendek – 59.1/45.0

What’s the difference between Keatts and the other two?

A couple of observations.

Sendek finished his time at NC State with 5 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, and Gottfried started off his tenure with 4 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. The Wolfpack advanced to the 2nd round 3 times, and the Sweet 16 once under Sendek. Under Gottfried, they advanced to the 2nd round twice.

Sendek led NC State to the ACC Championship game 3 times (in 10 years), and the semifinals 4 times. Gottfried led the Wolfpack to the semifinals on 3 occasions. Heck, Sidney Lowe led NC State to the ACC Championship game once, and the semifinals on another occasion.

Is the NC State Men’s Basketball program worse off under Keatts than it was under the previous coaches? If you simply look at total wins and losses, that’s not necessarily the case, but when you look at the Wolfpack’s production in postseason play, there is no other answer besides ‘yes.’

Every now and then you have to be willing to eat crow. Years ago, I was of the opinion that Herb Sendek needed to go. Do I think that Sendek would have brought NC State back to where it was in the 80’s? I didn’t think it then, and I’m not certain my opinion on that has changed, but the past 20 years has proven to me that the grass isn’t always greener.

Call me nostalgic, but from a historical perspective, I believe NC State fans have right to expect their Men’s Basketball program to be successful…to consistently be ranked in the Top-25…to finish in the top half of the ACC…compete for conference championships…and go to the Big Dance on a regular basis.

There is reason to be frustrated.

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NC State Basketball

Madison Hayes Will Be Returning for Her Final Year of Eligibility in 2024-25

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Last night NC State Guard Madison Hayes was honored on Senior Night, but she also announced that she would be returning in 2024-25 for her final year of eligibility. She was honored alongside Center River Baldwin and Forward Mimi Collins, who are both out of eligibility after this season.

Hayes is in the midst of a breakout season this year, averaging 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, which are both career highs. She ranks 3rd on the team in scoring, behind the other two Guards in the starting lineup, Aziaha James and Saniya Rivers, who will also be back in 2024-25. Even though she is a Guard, Hayes leads the Wolfpack in rebounding. Her 44.1% Field Goal Percentage is the best of any of the Wolfpack Guards, and her Three Point Percentage of 41.7% is the best on the squad.

As a Senior in high school, Hayes was named a McDonald’s All-American in 2020, and she earned a spot on the All SEC Freshman team in 2021 as a member of Mississippi St. In 2021-22, she transferred to NC State, and played in 26 games off the bench, but earned a spot in the starting lineup last season.

Big news for the Wolfpack Women’s Basketball program!

 

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NC State Basketball

NC State 64 #9 Duke 79: BOX SCORE

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#9 Duke defeated NC State 79-64 in PNC Arena this evening. With one game remaining for the Wolfpack in the regular season, they are now 17-13 overall, and 9-10 in ACC play. Below is the Box Score.

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