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Maryland Basketball's Unsung Hero So Far: Eric Hayes

One player who really hasn't gotten enough talk for his surprisingly excellent play thus far is everyone's favorite shooting combo guard, Eric Hayes. The senior from Potomac, long heralded for his three point shot despite rough times, is finally putting everything together for the makings of a very solid, consistent year, and the timing couldn't have been better for Maryland.

The first inklings of it came toward the end of last year, when Hayes showed unprecedented offensive aggression during the ACC tournament and NCAA tournament. That now seems to be holding true through the first half of this year, too, and Maryland is easily a better team because of it.

Through the first nine games, Hayes is averaging more points, more shot attempts, more 3 point attempts, more steals, and fewer turnovers per game than any other point in his career. His offensive rating is the highest for his career; so too is his shooting percentages. His effective FG%, one of the four factors to winning, is a sky-high 65%, and his true shooting percentage (which converts threes to twos, basically) is an outstanding 72%. To top it off, his new quicker triggered, but not ill-advised, threes are falling at a smoking 50%, his best (again) and good for 16th in the NCAA.

If you watch the games, you can see the improvement. He's the steadiest player on the team and seems much more comfortable and in the flow than he ever was before. There's no doubt in my mind that he's a top 3 player for Maryland, and is top 2 on some days. Gone are the Hayes-ian performances of the past (hopefully for good).

Part of his emergence is Greivis Vasquez's disappointing play thus far, which meant Hayes was on the floor more and expected to make more shots. So, too, has been Dave Neal's absence, which means Hayes is the new deep threat. That had another repurcussion, too; with another big body in the middle, Hayes is more likely to be open as players are more likely to help out against the big guy.

Another part, though, has been Hayes himself. He's getting his shot off quicker and is generally being more forceful when it comes to scoring, all while remaining his calm and steady self. The result has been a very good, very underrated performance.

Any other nominee's for an unsung hero? I would say Sean Mosley, except we've been singing his praises for a few weeks (seriously, I'm making up an SSM t-shirt). It could be Greivis Vasquez, in an ironic sort of way, but I didn't want to be ironic. My choice is Hayes. Any others?