Lazerus: Humes lands on his feet at UIC
By Mark Lazerus 648-3140 or email@example.com August 3, 2011 5:04PM
Updated: November 2, 2011 6:56PM
Hayden Humes is at UIC because he was too smart for Toledo.
OK, that’s not exactly true, nor is it entirely fair. But the fact is, if Humes’ grades hadn’t been so darn good, he might still be playing for the Rockets this season, instead of the Flames.
When Toledo lost three scholarships for the upcoming season for posting by far the lowest APR (academic progress rate) in the Mid-American Conference (an 858, far below the 925 threshold needed to avoid NCAA sanctions) back in April, Humes had his scholarship taken away by coach Tod Kowalczyk.
“They said that because I had the highest GPA on the team I would maybe be able to receive some money academically, or whatever,” said Humes, a 2009 Valparaiso High School graduate. “I looked into some ways I could stay — I wanted to stay and they wanted to me to stay — but it didn’t work out that way.”
If only he had posted a 2.7 or something instead of that sparkling 3.4, right?
Well, fortunately for Humes, everything worked out in the end. Besides getting to jump from the middling MAC to the far superior Horizon League, he found out last Friday that he wouldn’t have to sit out a year, either.
Because of the unusual circumstances surrounding his transfer, the NCAA granted him a legislative relief waiver, meaning the 6-8 forward with a surprisingly deft outside shot can play right away.
“I kind of was expecting it, but I knew anything could happen, so I didn’t want to assume anything,” Humes said. “I’m real excited about it.”
So is his second-year coach at UIC, Howard Moore, who is trying to change the losing culture of the UIC program by bringing in a host of newcomers, both high school recruits and transfers.
“This is tremendous news,” Moore said in an official release. “Hayden has been on campus with the rest of our new players since June, and has been a tireless worker. As we indicated to the NCAA during the waiver process, Hayden didn’t deserve to have his eligibility affected for something he wasn’t a part of, and the committee viewed things the same way. Hayden has a fresh start, and is going to be an outstanding addition to our program. I’m extremely happy for him.”
Humes will be a redshirt sophomore — he missed his entire freshman year at Toledo with a torn ACL — and will have three years of eligibility with the Flames.
He’s been participating in open gyms, working out with the UIC strength coach and taking two classes all summer, but the news — officially announced by the school on Wednesday — can only motivate him to work even harder.
“I think the sense of urgency is always there,” Humes said. “But it’s definitely something to look forward to now, as opposed to sitting out a year. That would have been pretty tough.”
Maybe it was his soft landing at UIC, but Humes didn’t sound bitter at all toward Toledo. Obviously, Kowalczyk — the former Wisconsin-Green Bay coach — inherited a bad situation, and Humes was put in a bad spot by it.
Kowalczyk had nothing but good things to say about Humes when he decided to transfer.
“Hayden is one of the finest young men I’ve had the privilege to coach,” Kowalczyk said at the time. “I wish he could stay, but I respect his decision to explore other options. I know he will be successful in his future endeavors.”
Humes hoped that his solid freshman season — 5.7 points per game, 5.1 rebounds per game — and sturdy frame would help him move up in the college basketball world, and he was right. He immediately was contacted by the likes of UIC and Wright State, along with Evansville, IUPUI and a few other schools. His hometown school of Valparaiso never came calling, but Humes had plenty of options.
Humes was in the midst of finals during the re-recruiting process, so he didn’t waste any time. He took one official visit — to UIC — and made his decision in just one week.
“We played UIC, so I was familiar with the program and the coaches,” he said. “And it’s nice (to be close to home) because I have family around here, so they’re able to go to games and that’s convenient.”
The MAC was the 20th-rated conference in the nation last year, according to the RPI. The Horizon League was ranked 11th — and featured Butler, the national runner-up for the second straight year.
That was another selling point for Humes.
“It’s more exciting because they’re kind of becoming the big dogs, the team to beat,” Humes said. “It’s fun to be in a conference where you can play those guys. You get your shot at playing the national runners-up twice a year. The MAC was a good conference, but it didn’t really have that.”
And now it doesn’t have Humes, either. And it looks like Toledo’s loss is UIC’s — and Humes’ — gain.