Flanked by some players who thought better of keeping their names in the NBA draft pool this summer, Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes headlines the preseason 2016-17 All-Big Ten team.
Hayes is set for his senior season with the Badgers. The 6-foot-8 forward was a first-team All-Big Ten player last season, averaging a career-best 15.7 points per game. Fellow Wisconsin forward cogs Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ join Hayes on the preseason squad.
Illinois senior guard Malcolm Hill, Indiana junior guard James Blackmon Jr., Iowa senior guard Peter Jok, Maryland junior guard Melo Trimble, Michigan senior guard Derrick Walton Jr., Purdue sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan and Indiana sophomore center Thomas Bryant round out the team.
The Big Ten coaches clearly respect the Badgers’ frontcourt, with their forwards taking up three of the four spots given to that position this year. Koenig averaged 13.1 points per game last season, one that ended with Wisconsin upsetting its way to the Sweet 16. With Happ’s 12.4 points-per-night figure, the Badgers return each of their three double-figure scorers from a season ago and figure to again be one of the conference’s strongest outfits.
Hayes is the fourth Badger to be named top player in the preseason in the past 14 years, joining Frank Kaminsky (2014-15), Alando Tucker (2006-07) and Devin Harris (2003-04). Each followed through and won the actual Player of the Year award that season.
Both Trimble and Blackmon withdrew their names from NBA consideration before the newly modified deadline. Trimble saw his scoring average plummet to 14.8 ppg after pouring in upwards of 16-plus per night as a freshman. Blackmon’s been remarkably consistent, posting 15.7 and 15.8 ppg averages in his first two seasons.