Detroit Pistons’ Killian Hayes’ checklist: Learning from John Beilein, ‘just being a dog’

Detroit Free Press

Killian Hayes is entering his second season in the NBA, but this is his first real offseason with the Detroit Pistons.

He had little time to acclimate himself after becoming the seventh overall pick in the 2020 draft in November, with just 23 days separating the draft and the first preseason game. In a normal year, rookies have roughly three months of preparation before training camp begins.

Hayes, who spent the previous season in Germany, went eight full months without playing organized basketball last year because of the pandemic. This summer has been much better, he said. He’s spent much of his time in Detroit at the Pistons Performance Center, working on his game alongside his rookie classmates — Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee.

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This offseason, he’ll participate in next week’s summer league in Las Vegas, and will then have several more weeks ahead of him before training camp begins.

After coming off of an up-and-down first season, he’s taking advantage of the additional time.

“Having a lot more time to prepare, to work, talk to people, having a clear view with summer league coming up, we have a great opportunity to get better,” Hayes. “I’m vaccinated so not having to go COVID test every morning, not having to do all of that any more is definitely a good thing.”

Hayes entered the summer with a clear understanding of what he needs to add to his game. His rookie season included a hip injury that limited him to 26 games played. His passing and defense were the strongest aspects of his game, but he struggled to score. Hayes averaged 6.8 points, 5.3 assists and a steal on 35.3% overall shooting and 27.8% shooting from 3.

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He said he’s working on all aspects of his game, but has prioritized shooting, ball-handling and footwork. Those are all areas head coach Dwane Casey identified as growth areas for Hayes at the end of last season. Former Michigan men’s basketball head coach John Beilein, who the Pistons hired as a skill development coach in June, has taken the lead on Hayes’ shooting drills.

“I worked a lot on my shooting, footwork, using my body defensively, just being a dog, playing hard defense,” Hayes said. “I got my footwork way better, putting in work every day in the weight room. Really working on all-around aspects of the game, but main focus has been shooting and ball-handling, being more physical on the floor.

“(Beilein is) real big on shooting, fundamentals, footwork, even the simple things like passing,” Hayes added. “I know I can pass the ball, but going back to the roots and working on fundamentals.”

Beyond skill development, Hayes has been able to work out with and build camaraderie with his teammates. Bey, Stewart, Lee, Sekou Doumbouya, Deividas Sirvydis and others have all been at the practice facility this summer.

“It’s been great because it’s been like being able to practice with all the guys, but then also practice individually,” Hayes said. “We’ve been able to do both, especially everything that’s team-related. Playing three on three, two on two, one on one, going through drills. We build that chemistry even more.”

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And like the rest of the fanbase, Hayes is eager to see who the Pistons select with the No. 1 pick during Thursday’s draft.

“It’s going to be exciting, especially for the fans,” Hayes said. “When I walk through the airport, everybody stops and says ‘who are we going to pick? Who are we going to pick?’ I’m like, I’m just like you, I don’t know. It’s exciting. I know the city is really excited, so it’s just going to bring us that boost and I’m looking forward to my new teammate.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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