Hidden point-guard gem Killian Hayes may be answer for Knicks

When ESPN’s college basketball maven Seth Greenberg gave his draft recommendation for the Knicks to select Iowa State point guard Tyrese Haliburton, it came with a caveat.

The former Virginia Tech coach hadn’t seen enough of 6-foot-5 point guard Killian Hayes, who skipped college ball to play in Germany.

Greenberg said he’d have to check in with his brother, Brad Greenberg, the former 76ers GM who has been coaching in Europe the past several years, most recently as head coach of the Israeli League’s Maccabi Ashdod.

As it turned out, Brad Greenberg flew back from Israel late Friday night after the Israeli League suspended play because of the coronavirus pandemic and offered his assessment to The Post.

One of Israel’s club’s, Rishon LeZion, faced Hayes’ Ratiopharm Ulm in the EuroLeague.

“He’s got good size for a young point guard, close to 6-5, and he’s got a feel for the game,’’ Brad Greenberg told The Post. “He’s used to having the ball in his hands and playing in a ball-screen offense. A very nice feel.’’

While Hayes was born in Lakeland, Fla., the southpaw has spent much of his life living in France, where his father, DeRon, became a professional player after graduating Penn State.

The younger Hayes reportedly wanted to move back to the U.S. to play for a high school basketball academy, then move on to play college ball. His father thought his NBA prospects would be better served turning pro at 16 and competing for the local French team, Cholet.

“I feel like I’m from both places,” Killian told Bleacher Report in August. “I try to bring the best of America and the best of France with me when I’m on the court.”

The Knicks already have a French-bred lottery-pick point guard in Frank Ntilikina. He hasn’t yet proven he is suited to being a starter, despite showing slight progress as a penetrator before last week’s suspension of the NBA season.

Submit your Knicks questions here to be answered in an upcoming mailbag

Hayes, who will turn 19 in July, seems to have the smarts and smoothness but not the outside shot, according to Brad Greenberg.

“[Hayes] really has a great touch on the pass to rollers,’’ said Brad, a native of Plainview, Long Island. “He has some range, but really has to improve his 3-point shooting. It’s not reliable right now — not a really good shooter yet.”

In 33 games, Hayes averaged 11.6 points and 5.4 assists in 23 minutes. He shot 48.2 percent from the field — just 29.4 percent on 3-pointers.

Brad says Hayes is more pure point guard than one with a scoring mentality.

“That’s not his first instinct to use ball screen to create for himself,’’ Greenberg said. “He wants to get more defenders involved in stopping a play. He doesn’t want to be a volume 3-point shooter.

“When you defend him, you’re not thinking about fighting through that screen, but he’s not going to automatically shoot it when you lay off.”

Indeed, Hayes sounds a little like Haliburton, whom Seth Greenberg considers the best pure point guard in college. Some in the Knicks organization believe the first priority is to find their starting point-guard-of-the-future in the draft. Neither Ntilikina, nor Elfrid Payton, nor Dennis Smith Jr. has seized the moment to its fullest.

The draft process, meanwhile, will be challenging now that the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out the conference and NCAA tournaments. There’s a strong chance, as first reported by The Post, the draft combine won’t come off as scheduled May 21-24 in Chicago.

The most important aspect of the combine in evaluating lottery picks is the sit-down interview in the Chicago hotels. Under the current lottery standings, the Knicks can pick anywhere from first through 10th.

According to an NBA memo distributed to teams Thursday and obtained by The Post, the suspension of the season should not be used as impetus to start sitting down with draft prospects. The recommendation, the memo stated, is employing virtual interviews.

“We recognize that recruiting season is upon us,” the league said in the memo, “but to the extent there is still any question, you are strongly encouraged not to engage in any face-to-face recruiting sessions, and to conduct all such activities in an alternative manner.”

Source: Read Full Article