GREENSBORO — The beaches and big city-trips can wait because being stuck at school on a summer Saturday is fine by Cam Hayes and his Greensboro Day teammates.
Thanks to the NCAA’s new recruiting calendar, Hayes and the Bengals are spending this weekend in their home gym for a change, taking part in what is — for the first time ever — an evaluation period for college coaches, allowing them to get a look at players on their home turf during the summer.
Traditionally, spring and summer evaluation weekends have belonged to AAU programs and the big-time events run by shoe companies as players have looked to impress college coaches while playing on hastily-constructed teams that don’t often account for chemistry or fit.
The chance to run the GDS offense in front of ACC head coaches was a welcome change for Hayes, who is considered a top-30 recruit and the third-ranked point guard in the Class of 2021 according to 247 Sports.
“In high school, you play together and you play as a team and everyone knows their role. I feel like it’s better for everybody because we’re running our sets and we know what we’re doing — I feel like I play better with my high school team.”
Hayes was the marquee player of the weekend that drew more than 75 college programs to GDS over the weekend, with 16 NCISAA teams battling in pool play before a tournament on Sunday.
It’s a win for the high school programs — which get high-level exhibition games — and players, who can operate in a more structured environment.
Hayes, who also plays with the elite CP3 organization on the Nike EYBL circuit, said there’s a different dynamic in ensuring all of his teammates get a chance to shine in AAU events.
“It’s different, because I’m playing with a bunch of other guys and I’ve got to get them all involved,” he said. “Here I can just play my game, I can run my sets and be a leader the whole time.”
Whether they’re watching at EYBL tournaments, camps or with the Bengals, coaches seem to like how his game is developing as he heads into his second game at GDS.
Wake Forest coach Danny Manning was courtside on Friday night, with N.C. State’s Kevin Keatts and Virginia’s Tony Bennett just a few rows back along with Clemson assistant Dick Bender watching Hayes in a surprisingly competitive game against Concord First Assembly.
Hayes said those programs, along with Tennessee, are among his top suitors to this point.
Despite an injured ankle that he fears could be a stress fracture, Hayes showed his speed as a ballhandler and a devastating pull-up jumper that certainly look like that of an ACC point guard.
“Going end-to-end, no one is better than Cam Hayes,” GDS coach Freddy Johnson said. “He’s playing on a bad ankle, so can you imagine how fast he’d be?”
In addition to managing his recruitment, Hayes is preparing to step into a new role as he slides over to point guard after having played alongside Austin Inge last season after transferring in from Smith.
Good matchup underway between @GreensboroDay and Concord First Assembly. Cam Hayes, Josh Taylor, Cheick Traore among the guys out there.— Brant Wilkerson-New (@BrantGNR) June 22, 2019
Danny Manning, Kevin Keatts, Tony Bennett, Wes Miller, CB McGrath among the group of coaches watching. pic.twitter.com/r5yyETHw9w
With the ball in his hands, Hayes has made strides over the past few weeks in raising his voice — something those coaches that are recruiting him have pointed out to him as an area for growth.
“Be more verbal, be more vocal on the court and be able to be a leader,” he said. “Come in and be leader. If I can lead here, I’m sure I can come in and lead a team in college; I’m a veteran now, so I’ve got to be a leader on the floor.”
Johnson has been blown away by Hayes’ growth over the past year.
“His knowledge and making reads, pushing the ball up and playing harder,” he said. “His defense has gotten a lot better.”
The next step, Johnson said, is putting all of that potential together every night — no matter the circumstance.
“He’s got to be more consistent,” Johnson said. “Playing hard all the time and playing through a little more adversity.”