Big Ten

Badgers' Nigel Hayes returning to Wisconsin for senior year

nigel-hayes-0524.jpg

Badgers' Nigel Hayes returning to Wisconsin for senior year

Nigel Hayes will be back at Wisconsin for his senior year.

Madison.com's Jim Polzin reported Tuesday that Hayes — who earned All-Big Ten First Team honors last season — will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and come back to the Badgers for the 2016-17 campaign.

Hayes is one of the latest Big Ten players to take advantage of new rules that allow underclassmen to test the NBA Draft process and work out with NBA teams without hiring an agent while still being able to return to school with their NCAA eligibility intact. The rules are undoubtedly beneficial for the players, who can learn more about their professional future and still take needed time to develop at the college level.

"Getting the opportunity to gather information about the NBA and visit with professionals at that level was a really valuable experience for me," Hayes said in the team's official announcement. "Playing in the NBA still remains an important goal for me, but that can wait another year. I’m excited to get back to work to pursue that dream, as well as the dream of getting my degree and helping my teammates, my brothers, bring a championship to Wisconsin."

There had been talk that Hayes needed another collegiate season and that he wasn't quite ready for the NBA. Despite averaging 15.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last season as one of the best players in the Big Ten, Hayes wasn't always consistent and saw his shooting numbers drop from his sophomore season. He shot 36.8 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from 3-point range last season after shooting 49.7 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from 3-point range during the 2014-15 campaign, which culminated in Wisconsin's second straight trip to the Final Four.

That being said, Hayes' return is obviously a big deal for the Badgers, who will return their entire starting lineup and almost their entire roster in Greg Gard's first full season as head coach. Last season, with Gard taking over for a retiring Bo Ryan midway through the campaign, Wisconsin was still one of the Big Ten's best teams, turning things around and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. Hayes returns alongside Ethan Happ, Bronson Koenig, Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter in the starting five.

Hayes' return could make the Badgers the Big Ten favorite heading into 2016-17.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

jeremy_larkin.jpg
USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

anderson.jpg
USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.