STARKVILLE – Anastasia Hayes has already been special for Mississippi State.
Last season – her first in Maroon and White – Hayes was an All-Southeastern Conference performer. She earned an All-America honorable mention. She entered this year as the SEC’s top returning scorer and one of the league’s superstars.
All that’s well and good, but guess what? She’s committed to taking it to another level.
After a career playing mostly the two and the three, this year, Hayes has shifted to point guard to best fit first-year head coach Sam Purcell‘s initial group of Bulldogs. She’s responding by evolving into an all-around threat that’s both helping State on its quest to compete for championships, as well as helping herself become a coveted player as she eyes professional hoops after this season.
“It’s my last year,” Hayes said. “I want to go out with a bang. I want to play really hard and do whatever I can to get the win for my team and do what all I can to get my teammates involved. I’m in a different position, but I’m all for it. I’m all for the team. I’m all for the win. That’s all I’m trying to do.”
As could be expected, Hayes has had to take on a few additional responsibilities playing the point for the Dawgs. Such is the case when you go from being the team’s primary scoring threat to a player expected to create opportunities for not only oneself, but also the rest of the squad.
Hayes says she’s become more of a communicator in her new spot, and it shows. She’ll enter Friday’s game against Georgetown at the Puerto Rico Classic averaging 5.6 assists per game. That’s currently second-best in the entire SEC and close to double last year’s average of 3.1 per contest.
“I’m having a really fun time, being able to win and seeing my teammates happy and seeing them score,” Hayes said. “It’s great to be able to pass them the ball. When I assist the ball, it makes me even more happy to know I was able to distribute the ball and be able to help that way. It makes my heart happy to make a good pass and a teammate be able to make the layup or make the shot.”
Of course, Hayes is still a tremendous threat to put the ball in the basket herself. She’s averaged just under 15 points a game over her last three outings and is coming off a season-high 18-point showing in a big win over Colorado State last Sunday.
“She had an…