Canes benefit from return of versatile forward Keyona Hayes

Redshirt junior Keyona Hayes (20) attempts a finger roll in a UM home game. Photo Courtesy
Redshirt junior Keyona Hayes (20) attempts a finger roll in a UM home game. Photo courtesy

Redshirt junior forward Keyona Hayes is back after missing all of last season with a right ankle injury. The skilled 6-foot-1 player from Marietta, Georgia is excited to finally return to the court for regular season action.

“It’s great to be back,” Hayes said. “Last year, sitting out was hard for me. I’ve never missed a season so it was tough, but it feels wonderful to be back. I missed the game.”

Hayes worked hard to get back to playing at the level she is accustomed to. She spent “a lot of hours during the week and multiple times a day just to get back to where I am,” Hayes said.

As a sophomore in the 2013-14 season, Hayes averaged more than 10 points per game and led the team in rebounding at 6.5 a contest. The Hurricanes missed her inside-outside presence offensively and defensively last season. According to Head Coach Katie Meier, the voters that predicted that Miami would finish sixth in the ACC forgot about her imposing presence.

“The people that remembered Keyona Hayes voted us higher – and they should have,” Meier said. “The people that forgot about her voted us lower.”

Hayes plays an aggressive style of basketball. She goes strong to the basket, forcing defenders to either foul or give way to her shot. Hayes takes smart shots too, as shown by her efficient 50.6 field goal percentage two seasons ago.

As far as rebounds are concerned, Hayes does not wait for the ball to come down to her. She makes rebounding a priority in order to set up second-chance points or to start a fast break down court.

The forward is no slouch on defense either, racking up a total of 64 steals and 36 blocks in her first two seasons at Miami. Even when Hayes isn’t swatting the ball away or ripping it out of an opponent’s hands, she alters shots and makes it difficult for opposing teams to get going.

Her versatility is one of the many reasons that she is such an integral part of the team. Despite being a natural forward, she can play nearly any position on any play.

“I can start a play with her in almost any position and that’s very unique. Our flow is just amazing when she’s on the court,” Meier said.

Hayes believes she is ready to pick up where she left off and help the Canes reach a seventh consecutive postseason. When asked when she felt ready physically, she said, “Back in January, February. Just been waiting to get back out there.”

Meier is also pleased about where Hayes stands coming back from the injury. “She’s still not 100 percent back, but mentally, she’s right where we need her to be,” Meier said.

Miami returns eight players from last year’s team who won 20 games and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. With Hayes back in the mix this season, look for another successful campaign by the Canes.