“Altruistic”, “self-assured”, and “hardworking”, Killian Hayes has finally made a place for himself in the sun in Detroit
In a few months, Victor Wembanyama will erase his mark on the 865,986 page book of NBA records. Promise to first choice of the Draft in June, Wemby will forever be the highest-ranked Frenchman in the lottery sending the best prospects to tour the country each year. The kid from Nanterre would then dethrone Killian Hayes (21), who was drafted seventh in 2020 by the Detroit Pistons, on, ultimately, a four-year, $24 million contract.
Two and a half years later, the French-American is back in our good old places, on the occasion of Thursday’s NBA Paris Game in Bercy, where the Pistons will take on the Chicago Bulls. Not exactly the poster of the century, but the opportunity for Killian Hayes to surf the beautiful dynamic started in November, after a very difficult first two seasons in the League, mainly due to a hip injury the first year.
“I just need a match”
And then, that all changed in the late fall, “thanks to” injury to Cade Cunningham, starting point guard, No. 1 in the Draft in 2021, missing until the end of the season. Since then, Killian Hayes has been pushed starter and continued their good run despite a disastrous record for the Pistons (12 wins and 35 losses). “I’ve had a tricky start to the season but I know that I just need a game where my shot is in and that will start my season,” the person concerned calmly commented to the media present at the Puma House. . , on the Champs-Elysées.
The trigger must have been against the Mavericks of Luka Doncic – “the most difficult player to defend, with his size, his physique and the fact that he plays with his hands” – in early December: 22 points, including 14 in the final quarter and overtime. Since the start of the season (despite a tricky October), Killian Hayes has averaged 10 points, 2.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists (14.6 points and 8 since early January). Unexpected rebound?
I don’t think he has any doubts, said Malcolm Cazalon, Hayes’ partner in the French youth team and finalist at the U17 Worlds. Killian is a hard worker. When you are like that, you never lose faith in yourself and your game, you shouldn’t feel sorry for yourself and if you start having doubts, that’s where it gets into trouble.
“Never long in trouble”
During the twenty minutes he spent in front of journalists, the words “work” and “confidence” were also repeated in Killian Hayes’ mouth: “The mentality is never to lose this belief, it’s a personal job. go your way, that’s where you have to adapt. You learn a new side of yourself. There was never any doubt. I knew, with the work I’ve put in my whole life and this summer, it will happen. I stay confident, and even in a bad game I know a shot will come at some point. »
This calm, even this phlegm, Killian Hayes always had it on the floor, even when he faced players who had evolved from the above age category, during his training in Cholet. “He is someone I haven’t seen in trouble in a long time,” said François Fiévet, his U18 coach. Every time he improves, he raises the level of his game and works to move forward. He’s had some tough times, but he’s bounced back really well. »
Anyone who tries to “take inspiration from the moves of James Harden, Manu Ginobili or D’Angelo Russel”, thereby succeeding, during the days without, to update his game. “Everyone knows that the hardest thing in the NBA is consistent defending, believes Hayes. The goal is to limit bad games. When the shots don’t go in, that’s when I have to do something else, defend, organize, be a leader, find my teammates to help. “
When he was at Cholet, he was someone who had phenomenal adaptability, emphasized Fiévet. He was very clever, and over time, becoming more and more targeted by opponents, he managed to not only be good himself, but also make others better. He is a very selfless player.”
The Pistons staff never let go
Even after his rocky first two seasons, the Pistons staff maintains an almost blind faith in his French. And, according to the principal in question, this is what has also allowed her to stay on track: “The group around me, the general manager, and the front office have been behind me and never put much pressure on me. Having a coach and front office behind you, pushing you every day, even when things aren’t going well, helps mentally. »
Malcolm Cazalon, who currently plays Mega Basket in Serbia, also underlines the importance of relatives in Killian Hayes’ success: “Entourage plays a lot in a career, and he knows where he is going, what he wants to become. He just had to work and everything would follow. Since the youth category, as he spoke, it was “NBA, NBA, NBA”. His dad played basketball, so I think that’s an influence. »
DeRon Hayes, who mainly played in Cholet and Nancy, “followed Killian outside of training, recalls François Fiévet. Even after the U18 match, Killian went with his father to practice his agility, shooting him. “We don’t know if his dad is still by his side in the Pistons practice room, but Killian knows, “I’m far from being a perfect player, I still have a lot to learn”. Come on, at work, there’s a semester to contribute before retirement.