Hayden Humes, a native of Valparaiso and former Toledo Rocket, and the Flames received great news yesterday when the NCAA ruled that Humes could immediately begin playing for UIC.
Academically a sophomore that sat out his freshman season with a torn ACL, Humes will retain three years of eligibility with the Flames -- more great news.
Mark Lazerus has the full backstory on why Humes had to leave to Toledo and why he ended up with the Flames (and how thrilled everyone is). But I'm more interested in where Humes fits into the amazing puzzle that is the completely re-tooled UIC team.
Time and again head coach Howard Moore and the department have stressed changing the losing culture of the UIC program, and releasing still-eligible players like Dipanjot Singh shows a commitment to shedding any remnant of losing attitudes. There will be very little carry-over in personnel from last season, and Humes will help to fill the gaps.
The 6-8 PF is comfortable on the wings and a deft range-shooter, but his size will be best used in the traditional power forward spot assisting returning 6-9 senior big man Darrin Williams underneath.
If he can play scrappy basketball, and the incoming Chicago public league freshman are no doubt showing him some of that in team workouts, then Humes should easily take over the rebounding abilities of former forward Brad Birton. Both were limited role players at their respective schools last season (Humes took 15.0 percent of Toledo's possessions and Birton took 15.8 percent) and Humes was a slightly better defensive rebounder, while Birton was a slightly better offensive boarder.
Of special note is Humes' free throw rate -- his ability to get to the free throw line relative to his scoring attempts and without consideration for free throw percentage. The former Rocket posted a 44th ranked D-I best number of 70.1 percent. Compare that to Birton's FTRate of 18.8 percent, and see that Humes was creating a lot of opportunities underneath last season. That's a sure sign of comfort in the post.
Finally, Darrin Williams aside, in a team of mostly newcomers to D-I hoops (six freshman and one JUCO transfer), all of which have a good shot at starting spots, the Flames will depend on Humes to provide level-headed veteran presence next season. As a Rocket Humes started 25 games and has already squared off against YSU and Valparaiso. He knows the league, and he knows he has to bring leadership, especially in the frontcourt. His maturity will be an asset to UIC, especially as a player looking to make his name in a new league.
Also read Humes' Knowing the Newcomer Interview on the Flames website.