NBA executive, trainers talk Knicks draft target Killian Hayes, including whether he's built for New York

Ian Begley
·4 min read
Killian Hayes
Killian Hayes

‘Can he handle New York?’

In years past, the Knicks have factored that question in to their evaluation of players.

They’ve wondered if a player can perform amid the fan and media scrutiny. They’ve wondered if he can handle all of the added attention/headaches that can come with playing in a big market.

It’s safe to assume that new team president Leon Rose and his group are factoring some of the same things in ahead of the draft.

When it comes to point guard Killian Hayes, it seems like they don’t have anything to worry about.

“He knows exactly what he wants and knows the work that he has to do to get there,” veteran NBA guard Will Bynum says. “Some of the things that may deter him – he knows about all of them already and he’s preparing himself and embracing it.

“For a 19-year-old kid to be that way, it’s impressive.”

Bynum played eight seasons in the NBA. He knows the challenges that come with playing against the best in world every night.

And he’s worked with Hayes – a 6-7, left-handed guard – for the past three years. So when he talks about Hayes’ mental approach, he has an informed opinion.

“It’s a stubbornness – and it’s a gift. When you’re that young and you know exactly what you want and you’re not going to let anybody deter you from it,” Bynum says. “He just has that about him — he knows exactly what he wants and what needs to get done.”

So does trainer Shawn Faust. He’s been working with Hayes for the past seven months to prepare for the draft. And he’s been impressed by Hayes’ sharp focus.

“One of Killian’s biggest strengths is being able to play through struggle and being able to adjust and refocus when he does struggle — because struggle is part of the game,” says Faust, who has worked with scores of NBA players. “He doesn’t struggle much because he’s a really good player – but he does a really good job of playing through it.”

WHAT ABOUT THE RIGHT HAND?

In addition to mental fortitude, Hayes is also incredibly skilled. He probably won’t be available for the Knicks when they select at eight. If he falls to Detroit, it’s hard to see the Pistons passing on him.

One of the criticisms of Hayes? He doesn’t drive/attack going right well.

“He’s very left hand dominant and teams know it,” says Tom Primosch of the scouting firm BPA Hoops, which focuses on international players. “He’s not a threat to drive right and he can be overly reliant on his left hand when making passes.”

Faust, Bynum and Hayes have been working on his right hand regularly over the past seven months.

And, Faust says, teams who see Hayes now don’t have much concern about his ability to drive/attack with his left and right hands.

“His right hand is not an issue at all – I’m telling you right now, the right hand is good to go,” Faust says.

Faust has worked with Hayes on all aspects of going right, including passing, finishing, shooting off the dribble and shooting off the catch.

“It’s not just going right, it’s about getting him confident in trusting the right - that’s what we’ve been able to do over the last eight months,” Faust says.

He also points out that Hayes may have looked left-hand dominant during his season with Ulm in Germany because teams often couldn’t force him to go right.

“He just kept doing what was efficient He just keeps doing what’s efficient,” Faust says. “Thinking that he doesn’t go right because he didn’t have to go right — I think it’s more of an assumption than it is a fact.”

KOBE-LIKE PATH

Hayes was born in the United States, but he grew up in France and played professionally in Europe. His family moved overseas when his father, DeRon Hayes, played professionally in France.

Hayes was one of the top young prospects in France as a young player. His path back to the United States reminded Bynum of another young player who grew up overseas and starred in the NBA.

“It’s kind of similar to Kobe [Bryant] — how he came to the NBA way more mature than the average 19-year-old,” says Bynum, who has dozens of elite players through his Chicago-based training firm, The Grind Family.

“I’m an inner city kid so I see it different. For him to be able to focus on nothing but basketball at that age, and to love it, is everything,” Bynum says. “Because sometimes when you’re in these cities and you grow up around family members sometimes it can kind of [distract] you from that 100 percent focus that you would have. Sometimes those things can alter your career.

“For him, everything is aligned – from his father to his mom to the way he handles everything – it’s just impressive to be able to see that from a 19 year old.”