Jillian Hayes, sister of NBA first-round pick Jaxson, commits to Cincinnati

Photo: Geoff Blankenship for the Enquirer
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LOVELAND, Ohio – Less than a week after her brother, Jaxson Hayes, was an NBA lottery pick, Loveland (Ohio) High School’s Jillian Hayes announced her college commitment for basketball.  The 6-1 versatile scorer for Coach Darnell Parker’s Lady Tigers will play for Michelle Clark-Heard at the University of Cincinnati.

Hayes and Loveland just visited UC for a team camp and she attended numerous games during the recent season.

“I love the atmosphere and what Coach Heard has going there,” Hayes said. “I think I’ve always known. Whenever I stepped on campus my parents even said I just light up when I’m with the staff or the players.”

While her 6-11 brother out of Moeller and Texas was prepping for last week’s NBA Draft, Jillian and her mother were in Minnesota working on her hardwood resume. Both later joined the family in New York for Jaxson’s big night at the Barclays Center.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Jillian’s mother Kristi Hayes said.

Added Jillian, “It was awesome! It was really surreal. Especially when they called his name. I went,’They didn’t just call his name?’ I knew he could do it if he put his mind to it.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver poses with Texas’ Jaxson Hayes after the Atlanta Hawks selected him as the eighth overall pick in the NBA basketball draft Thursday, June 20, 2019, in New York. (Photo: Julio Cortez, AP)

A day after her announcement to stay in town for UC, Hayes and her Loveland teammates were at Purcell Marian for some summer league action. From the frills of New York City, mother and daughter were back in the familiar confines of a steamy gym.

Unlike Jaxson, who didn’t start at Moeller until his senior season when he sprouted to a 6-10 gazelle, Jillian has started and led Loveland in scoring in her first three varsity seasons. Her averages have jumped from 7.9 to 15.6 to 17.3 points per game. She also pulls down around eight rebounds per game and has led the Eastern Cincinnati Conference in steals the past two winters.

“The two have totally different stories,” Kristi Hayes said of her two eldest. “Jillian’s always been in there. Freshman year she started and was in there. She’s an offensive player and very tough-nosed. I’ve gone through the whole recruiting process with her. I only had three months with Jaxson. She will bully her way in where Jaxson’s more of a finesse player. They’re two opposite ends of the spectrum but they both have found their way to where they want to go.”

Loveland has finished third in the ECC with Hayes the last two seasons and Coach Darnell Parker is glad the celebrated senior has her decision out of the way.

“Coach Heard got a great player,” Parker said. “I know that Jill really loved the UC program. Jill’s a complete player. She’s going to be able to play on the perimeter or she can play on the post if they need her to. She’s going to continue to get better and stronger as a player.”

Hayes is the second of four children of Jonathan and Kristi Hayes. As documented last week in Jaxson’s dramatic surge to the forefront of pro basketball, Jonathan Hayes is a former NFL tight end and assistant coach with the Bengals. He now is head coach of the St. Louis franchise in the XFL.

Loveland’s Jillian Hayes (10) controls a defensive rebound for the Lady Tigers. (Photo: Geoff Blankenship for the Enquirer)

The basketball talent comes from Iowa high school legend Kristi (Kinne) Hayes who averaged 52 points per game her senior year in high school and went on to become a Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year at Drake.

“I’ll give it to her, she’s the best bucket in our family,” Jillian Hayes said grinning. “Including my older brother.”

Michelle Clark-Heard guided the UC women to a 24-11 mark last season as they advanced to the quarterfinals of the WNIT. Heard beat out Central Florida and Kentucky for the services of Hayes.

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