Before all the talk about a virus took over all aspects of our lives, there was a feel-good story taking place in college basketball that was gaining lots of attention. That story still has some legs thanks in part to one of its players being given the opportunity to continue playing the game. The team is the Merrimack College Warriors, the player is Juvaris Hayes. Toward the end of this past summer, Hayes was able to sign a pro contract with the Tigers Tuebingen of Germany. The Patterson N.J. native led the Warriors to a regular-season title in their first year of Division 1 ball. Playing in the Northeast Conference, the Warriors shocked not only the rest of the league but became the story of college’s hoops before everything was shut down.
Hayes’s contribution to the team’s success was a major factor behind the school’s first championship banner. He led the conference in assists with 198 in 31 games played. An average of 6.4 per game. He averaged 10.7 points per game which ranked him second on the team in scoring. Hayes ended the season with double-digit performances in six of his final seven contests. He finished his senior year as the team leader in assists (6.4), rebounds (4.7), and steals (3.9 ). He leaves the program as the leader in both assists and steals while landing in the top-10 in both career points and rebounds.
Even more impressive is where his numbers put him when it comes to the rest of college round ball. His career assists total of 457 is a new NCAA record that spans all divisions. In his last three seasons at Merrimack, Hayes posted at least 120 steals and would finish his senior campaign with the third most in conference history. He was also the best in all of Division 1 in both steals (121) and steals per game (3.9 ) in his final year with the Warriors. In Northeast League play he averaged 4.5 steals per game. More than two thefts above any other player in the league. His total of 81 is more than double any other player in the conference. He posted nine games with five steals or more and saved his best for senior night. That night he grabbed a career-high nine in a win over Central Connecticut State. Hayes’s steal percentage of 6.5 led the country as well.
When the season came to a close, Hayes ended up on several post-season awards lists. He was named to the Lou Henson All-American team, a first for anyone from Merrimack. He also won the Lefty Driesell Award as the nation’s top defensive player and named to both the USBWA All-District team and the NABC All-District first team. In the Northeast Conference, Hayes was named to the All-Conference first team and Defensive Player of the Year.
Being able to write Hayes’s name in the starting lineup was never a problem as he never missed a game in his four years at Merrimack (126 games), and leaves the program with 81 wins where he is one of only two players that can make that claim.
Hayes’s ability to play defense and be available for his team should be a major plus in his new home.