Moeller High of Cincinnati, Ohio, was at the Beach Ball Classic two years ago, but fans at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center won’t remember 6-11 senior Jaxson Hayes.
He wasn’t on the varsity team. He was a backup on the Moeller junior varsity as a sophomore.
A lot has changed since then.
Hayes has grown about seven inches since the 2015 Beach Ball, and after being a backup player on the Moeller varsity as a junior, he committed to Texas in September after being courted by some of the most prominent college programs in the country.
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Hayes’ rise has come amazingly quickly.
“He’s never started a game in his career until this year,” said Moeller coach Carl Kremer. “We’ve had some late bloomers, but never to his degree. He’s going to do nothing but get better. He’s really got a chance to be an NBA player some day because he’s just in the infancy. He’s better this week than he was last week. He literally gets better by the week. This was the first summer he put a lot into basketball and you can just see him expanding.”
Hayes’ father, Jonathan Hayes, was a tight end for a decade in the NFL with Kansas City and Pittsburgh and is the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, and his mother was a prolific high school basketball scorer in high school and at Drake.
“We knew the genes were good, he was just a late maturer,” Kremer said. “When Jaxson came to Moeller he was 6-1 and 115 pounds. He was all skin and bones and he’s just developed over these years.”
Kremer said Hayes was the 20th player on a Moeller freshman team that keeps 20 players, he played some as a reserve on the JV as a 6-4 sophomore, and backed up current Cornell freshman Riley Voss last year as a 6-7 junior on varsity.
But he played on an AAU team with heavily recruited Romeo Langford, who has reportedly narrowed his list of potential schools to Indiana, Kansas and Vanderbilt.
“It all happened in AAU this year,” Hayes said. “He’s one of the top players in the country so that brought a lot attention so that helped me out a lot. He brought a lot of other college coaches there.”
Hayes said he received offers from Kentucky, Ohio State, Georgetown, Xavier, Purdue and a few other schools, but chose Texas and head coach Shaka Smart.
“It was a perfect fit,” Hayes said. “I love Shaka. He’s a great guy.”
Hayes’ growth spurt is a big reason he attracted all the attention.
“Because of my growth spurt I was smaller and I kind of had a guard set, and being able to use that guard skill set helped me when I got bigger,” Hayes said. “So now I can handle the ball a little bit better than most bigs can, I can run the floor.”
But his quick ascension to 6-11 has also required him to make constant adjustments. Hayes said he led the junior varsity in three-point shooting as a sophomore but he struggled with his shot through his growth spurt last year. He said it has improved this season. “If I get a good set shot I’ll normally hit it,” he said.
Hayes is “pretty sure” he’s still growing, and he’s still working on a lot of things. “I need a little bit of toughness, need to get a little bit stronger, work on my free throws,” he said.
Hayes had 19 points while hitting eight of 11 shots – including numerous alley-oop dunks – grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots in Moeller’s 60-41 win over Scott County (Ky.) Tuesday night in the first round of the Beach Ball.
The Crusaders will face Long Island Lutheran (N.Y.) at 5:15 p.m. Thursday in the second round, and as fast as he improves, he may be better Thursday than he was Tuesday.
Leaky is back home
Basketball has given Rechon “Leaky” Black so much.
Of all those things, there was something it didn’t offer – time.
Wanting to be closer to family, the North Carolina native and University of North Carolina basketball commit left powerhouse Montverde Academy (Fla.) to spend his senior season at Cox Mill High outside Charlotte, N.C.
“I wanted to come back because I wanted to be around family before I went to college,” he said. “It’s been fun. (Cox Mill) has welcomed me with open arms ever since I got back.”
At Montverde, Black was one of several top tier players on the roster, among them fellow senior R.J. Barrett, the top prospect in the Class of 2018. The well at Cox Mill may not be as deep in talent, but he does have the opportunity to play with another top prospect in junior Wendell Moore.
The duo combined for 48 of their team’s points Tuesday in a 76-50 win over Fairland (Ohio) in the Chargers’ Beach Ball Classic debut.
According to Black, the two often match up against each other in practice.
“It’s a day-in, day-out grind going up against him in practice,” Black said. “It doesn’t get any better.”
Said Moore: “We’ve known each other for a very long time, and we’ve always played with each other. If we weren’t, we were playing against each other. Now that I have the chance to play with him, it makes it easier on me (in games).”
The opportunity to play in the Beach Ball Classic is not lost on either player. Seeing posters of Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O’Neal hanging in the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, the Cox Mill standouts said that to be mentioned in the same breath as those legends “is awe-inspiring.”
“To be mentioned with (Bryant) and other legends like that, they are hall of famers,” Moore said. “It's just a blessing.”