Tom Archdeacon: Transfer finds old form as Raiders romp

When her night was finally done – when she came to the bench in the final minutes of Wright State’s 106-72 romp over Southeastern Louisiana Monday night at the Nutter Center – Antania Hayes reached for a towel.

She dabbed her nose that had taken an unintentional poke early in the game, then she wiped off her tattooed shoulders and finally ran the towel across her glistening face, up toward that thatch of braids she had tied atop her head.

In the process she dislodged one of her contact lenses. When she finally found it again, she handed it to one of the Raiders support personnel to take to the dressing room.

She didn’t need it anymore. She had seen enough on this night.

It had been, as they say, a sight for sore eyes.

Posting a double-double – 15 points and 10 rebounds – the 6-foot-1 junior from Detroit had finally played a little bit like her old self.

A transfer from a junior college, she has only been a WSU player for five games now.

Until Monday night, she had done nothing spectacular for the Raiders.

Just before the season had started, she suffered a concussion and missed “10 days to two weeks of practice” said coach Mike Bradbury.

Not only has she been getting back into playing form, but she was adjusting to yet another place – the final place she hopes – that will be her college basketball home.

“It’s been a long process, a very long process,” she said afterward.

As a senior at Martin Luther King High in Detroit, she was expected to be the city’s next great girls hoops sensation. She was named the Metro Detroit Player of the Year, was a first team all-state player and was a Miss Basketball finalist.

But near the end of the season, her 21-year-old brother, Jeremiah, was murdered.

“Shot three times,” she said quietly.

Monday night she explained why she had played for her team the day he was buried. It had been a way for her to cope and a way to honor him, too: “And my team needed me. It was a championship game.”

She said she played poorly.

“Understandable,” Bradbury interjected. “She had other things on her mind.“

She has continued to honor her brother with the big “RIP Jeremiah” tattoo on her right shoulder.

An owl is inked on the left shoulder. “It’s for good luck,” she said.

And when it came to basketball it seemed like she had plenty of it. The No. 36 prospect in the nation according to HoopGurlz, she was recruited by several major colleges and narrowed her list to five: Michigan, Syracuse, Penn State, Marquette and DePaul.

She ended up signing with DePaul, but then academic issues forced her to go the junior college route and she ended up at Kennedy King College in Chicago.

It would be a nearby place DePaul could keep an eye on her.

And yet when she got to the two-year school she wasn’t sure she liked what she saw.

“They had been like 1-20 the year before,” she said. “There was nobody there. I was upset, I wondered ‘Why am I here?’ But then I decided I gotta deal with it.”

She said she soon built a relationship with the coach and the players who were there and realized once again the team needed her.

And she responded: In two years she scored 1,066 points and grabbed 708 rebounds.

After junior college, she was on the market again.

“I really had to think about what I was going to do,” she said. “I had already done two years of college I didn’t want to get messed up by it.”

She was recruited by several schools, but had built a relationship with WSU assistant coach Katrina Merriweather.

“And when I came down here and talked to Bradbury, he let me know, ‘Listen, we really want you. It came down to trust and I trust them here,” Hayes said.

Bradbury said the sales pitch was about more than basketball: “Everybody knows she’s a good player She trusted that we’d take care of her. She realized Wright State is a good place and hey, we win a lot here too.”

The Raiders have now won four in a row after a season-opening loss to the Miami Hurricanes.

Monday night Kim Demmings led the way with 18 points. Freshman point guard Emily Vogelpohl added 17 and Richelle van der Keijl had 14.

But it was Hayes’ game that especially caught Bradbury’s eye. Not just for the points or rebounds, he said: “It was just her aggression. She had five offensive rebounds. That’s something she can do with anybody in the country.”

He said people saw just the tip of the iceberg .

“This will not be her best game,” he said. “She’s gonna do this stuff on a daily basis”.

And that made Hayes smile.

She didn’t need her contacts to know that was a vision she liked.

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