May 14, 2014

Bear Cub runs with Lions

Kevin McCarthy

Is ignore in any way linguistically connected to ignorance? Probably not but maybe it should be as Matt Hayes was an integral member of a high school state champion a year ago and then an essential component of the top community college in California this year. He emerged from high school minus any Division I offers but now he is headed to one of the top basketball leagues; the West Coast Conference.

photo of Matt Hayes

As a prep senior, the 6-foot-1 Hayes led Pleasant Grove High to a 73-57 beatdown of Santa Monica in the state championship game, finishing with a tops on the team with 19 points.

This season as a freshman at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC), he was a First Team All State selection after scoring a squad-leading 16.2 points per game on 45%, 44% and 84% shooting respectively. In the title game versus San Bernardino College, the Bear Cubs took the win 73-67 as Hayes totaled 11 points plus five assists, the latter a contest best.

Combine his skills set, his history of success, plus a coaching change and now Hayes has signed to attend Loyola Marymount University as a member of Coach Mike Dunlap's initial recruiting class.

“I really loved it there,” Hayes recalled. “Coming in, I can make an impact and it's a great location.” He wants to be a member of the group that turned around the fortunes of LMU basketball.

For Lions basketball fans who are unfamiliar with his assets, “I'll be bringing in leadership and scoring ability.” It's looking like he'll play as a combo guard.

And going up against former SRJC teammates Alec Kobre and Bobby Sharp when LMU tangles with Pacific and Portland respectively as well as battling in the backcourt with the likes of Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos, Tyler Haws of BYU and San Diego's Johnny Dee during conference play.

This is another tale with quite the uplifting ending as Hayes finished with the aforementioned prep championship at Pleasant Grove but no DI suitors. He wasn't even attracting all that much community college attention save for some interest from Sierra College and American River College.

Then a visit to check out Santa Rosa Junior College ultimately proved ever so decisive although such obviously wasn't known at the time.

“I saw the system and the offense and looked at Coach McMillan's résumé (playing at Arizona, coaching at four-year colleges and universities and sending guards, especially, on to the DI level),” Hayes explained.

He signed on.

In that time, “Coach McMillan worked with me on my defense and my shot and really pushed me.”

What's fascinating is that the Bear Cubs started out this season 3-6, albeit with a early tough schedule (three pairings with City College of San Francisco, one against Fresno City College plus Antelope Valley College and San Bernardino College matchups) and a number of these games away from home. Sometimes, that is a situation ripe for team dissension and disintegration but the SRJC squad actually pulled together at that point and ran off a 21-2 streak.

“We began to play more as a team,” Hayes noted, adding it was a matter of knowing and accepting roles.

He's already working to make refinements and improvements in his game, especially with his ballhandling plus he understands the strength and heft he will be going up against at the next level and is lifting weights five times a week so as to get stronger.

So here's the Hayes trajectory: first a high school state championship followed by a junior college crown. Is winning the 2015 Big Dance next in the cards? Do remember that neither Pleasant Grove nor Santa Rosa JC were favored yet came out on top.