Photo By J. Alan Paul Photography/Nolan P. Schmidt
People in this area know the name Maleeck Harden-Hayes. Not only was he a standout prep player for Moorhead High School, but he also helped usher in a trend of local flavor for Dave Richman and Bison men’s basketball. Not only that, he proved that he was capable of taking on quality minutes as a true freshman when many believed Harden-Hayes required a “developmental” season.
Harden-Hayes even admits that he thought he would take a redshirt year in 2019-20. He would use that season to get in the weight room and help tack on some needed mass to his lanky 6-foot7 frame. However, a redshirt year fell by the wayside as Dave Richman signaled for HardenHayes on November 5. It just so happened that his first minutes as a college athlete would come against the Big 12’s Kansas State.
The Moorhead native was still able to do some of the things a redshirt year would offer. He tacked on close to 25 pounds and he consistently enhanced his game. Most notably in his jumpshot as Harden-Hayes shot 36 percent from the field and an impressive 43 percent from long range. Not known for being a shooter in high school, Harden-Hayes connected on six three-pointers last season.
That mark is a sign of things to come for the athletic Maleeck Harden-Hayes.
You came here as a freshman with the impression that you might redshirt. In reality, you ended up playing substantial time, what was your mindset during the whole process last season?
Coming in, we decided with coach that I would most likely redshirt. As the season went on, he just told me to keep practicing, keep going hard and that is something I bring to the table each practice. As I started to develop my game, I was able to get an opportunity to play.
The toughest thing to do is carve out a role on a team. With a team that had so many veterans, how did you go about doing that?
It’s really tough as a freshman to come into such a deep roster. As the season went on, my role was to keep learning from upperclassmen and always paying attention to what Tyson [Ward] was doing in practice and learn from him. As the season went on, my role was just to bring a spark off the bench. That is what I tried to do too.
Compared to previous years, there are a lot of new faces in this program. Do you think you will take the lessons you learned last year and apply them to the new guys on the team this year?
Being in year two, I know where the freshmen’s minds are at. Knowing that they need someone to lead them and that is what I want to try to do even as a sophomore. Even if it is telling them little things that I wish I knew as a freshman. Because who knows when we might need those younger guys to play this year. I tell them to embrace their role and work hard and set that example for them.
Where do you think you’ve taken the biggest strides in your time at NDSU? Whether that be on the court or off the court.
I’ve definitely gotten a lot stronger since I got here and that was a big thing coming in. I’ve gained about 21-22 pounds since I have gotten here. I’ve also gotten better on the defensive end with communicating. Leading the younger guys and communicating because I know my teammates need me this year.
When you committed here, most casual fans knew you for your athletic ability. How have you gone about honing your game from a skill perspective?
Shooting has also been a big improvement since I got here. I was blessed to have so many great teammates that were getting me good looks. That is something coach and I have been working on to improve my jumper. I’m excited to see how it goes this year because I am very confident in my shot right now.
How much pride do you take being a local kid and getting to suit up for North Dakota State?
That was a big reason why I ended up coming here. Being able to stay local and have so much support from my friends and family and being able to represent that Bison jersey in front of those supporters, is a great opportunity for me. I’m excited to continue to do that.