Prior to Tyler Herro’s success in the NBA and the Miami Heat’s surprise run to the Finals, the former Kentucky Wildcat was seen as one of the biggest villains in the state of Wisconsin coming out of high school.
After establishing himself as a legitimate high-major Division I talent going into his sophomore year, Wisconsin became the second school to extend a scholarship offer back on Dec. 24, 2015 (Creighton offered five months earlier on July 27). Following the offer, Herro took four unofficial visits to Wisconsin over the course of the next year, with the Badger staff also visiting him on Sept. 9, 2016.
And then just three days later on Sept. 12, Herro committed to his home-state program, choosing Wisconsin over offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Creighton, Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, Oregon, and Xavier, among others.
13 months later, Herro announced he was backing away from his pledge and reopening his recruitment. After receiving a visit and scholarship offer from John Calipari on Oct. 31, 2017, the four-star guard committed and signed with the Wildcats just two weeks later on Nov. 14.
As expected, the decommitment didn’t go over well with the Wisconsin fanbase, with local diehards soon attending Herro’s high school games wearing Badger gear and calling him a “snake” for ditching his status as “hometown hero” in favor of a blue blood program like Kentucky.
“It’s been weird,” Herro told KSR back in February of 2018. “A lot of student sections that we play against are all wearing Badger gear and calling me a snake and stuff like that. But I guess it’s cool. … I definitely think that my character has gotten better since I decommitted because I have to focus on the things that are around me and let everybody else talk and say what they believe.”
But what if I told you all of that negative energy directed toward the former Wildcat was partially due to former Wisconsin star Nigel Hayes pushing Herro away from the Badgers?
Yes, that Nigel Hayes.
Hayes, who was a sophomore on the Wisconsin team that beat undefeated Kentucky in the Final Four in 2015, saw Herro – a sophomore at the time – play at a camp in Madison, WI and knew he was a star in the making.
“That was my introduction to the legend of Tyler Herro,” Hayes told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “Everyone was talking about this other kid. I’m watching the kids and I see Tyler. And I started telling people, ‘I don’t know who this white boy is, but he’s something special. You might want to keep an eye on him.‘”
In fact, after getting to know Herro and seeing how good he could be, Hayes ultimately talked him out of going to Wisconsin and maximizing his talent at a bigger school such as Kentucky.
“This is going to make some people mad. I was one of the ones who advised him not to go to Wisconsin with the talent he has,” said Hayes, Wisconsin’s No. 3 player on the school’s all-time scoring list. “I told him the only people who are upset with him are the ones who are selfish. Only way he can thrive is not walking around thinking he’s less than. He’s a growing seed.”
Instead of sticking with the hometown Badgers, Herro signed with Kentucky, had a breakout freshman season, was selected No. 13 in the NBA Draft by the Heat, and helped lead Miami to the NBA Finals as a rookie.
“I’m just going to bet on myself. I’ve been doing that my whole life,” Herro told the media during Miami’s postseason run. “I went from a small town in Milwaukee to Kentucky, and nobody thought I would survive there and nobody thought I would survive here. At the end of the day, I’m just betting on myself.”