March 23, 2017
By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
This past basketball season was a career-year for Anastasia Hayes.
However, to hear the Riverdale High School senior talk about the season that was, it had less to do with individual accolades and everything to do with her team’s accomplishments.
The Warriors were undefeated and won their second consecutive Class AAA girl’s state basketball title with a convincing 66-59 victory over Memphis Central.
They were 34-0 and Hayes wrapped up her career at Riverdale having won 42 consecutive games.
And, more importantly, the team has a cumulative 3.56 grade point average.
“First, I was playing for God,” Hayes said, “that’s who I was really playing for and I was playing to have fun.
“We wanted to come out and show everybody,” added Hayes of the naysayers who didn’t believe Riverdale could win back-to-back titles. “It meant a lot to me, especially this year because, it’s my last year.”
But individually speaking, Hayes’ high school career isn’t quite over.
Hayes, who was named the Tennessee Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year and TSSAA Class AAA Miss Basketball, will play in the 40th annual McDonald’s All-American Games on March 29 at the United Center in Chicago.
She is one of 24 girls selected nationally.
Hayes, who will continue her college career at the University of Tennessee, will play for the east squad along with two other signees by the Lady Vols. A fourth UT signee from the No. 1 recruiting class will suit up for the west squad.
“I’ve always wanted to be a McDonald’s All-American,” said Hayes, who returned to the gym two days after winning this year’s state title.
“This is not something that Coach Coffman did,” said Riverdale head coach Randy Coffman, who was recently named the Naismith High School Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. “This is a commitment Anastasia Hayes made to be one of the best players in the country.”
In past years, she was primarily a scorer first with ridiculous speed and quickness.
Now she has the ability to see the whole court and set the table for the rest of them. She learned to make others on her team better, but, as her younger sister developed at the point, Coffman moved her back to a scoring role.
Hayes, who averaged 22.2 points per game this past season, is the ninth ranked high school senior in the country and fifth among point guards, according to ESPN.
She also was a finalist for the Naismith National Player of the Year.
“When her ball-handling skills caught up … that immediately put her at an elite level,” Coffman said.
Hayes was also selected to participate in the Jordan Brand Classic, which will take place April 14 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Jordan and Kevin Durant are two of Hayes’ basketball heroes.
She also mentioned Maya Moore will be at the Jordan Brand Classic.
“It’s a blessing and an honor to get to play,” said Hayes, who will miss her senior prom at Riverdale in order to play in the game. “But, hey, I’m getting to go meet Michael Jordan. … I’m excited I get to go play in front of all those people I grew up idolizing.”
While she’s all business on the court, Coffman said Hayes is carefree off the court.
She’s been described as easygoing and witty.
And, of course, strong-minded.
Coffman said Hayes, who was instead asked to attend the Blackman High School prom by a Blaze senior, has the ability to accomplish whatever she sets her mind too.
As an eighth-grader, she went from being a standout softball player to focusing on basketball. She not only runs track, but, last year, she also had the fastest time the 400m.
In addition to various sports, Coffman said, Hayes can do backflips and back-handsprings.
“Where do you get that,” Coffman, “Those are blessings from above.”
Coffman added, “What basketball has done for her life and what it’s allowed her to see and experience, it has to be overwhelming for a young person.”
PHOTOS / JAMES EVANS
(1) Member of the Riverdale Lady Warriors basketball team pose with their state championship trophy.
(2) Team members were awarded the first place national title by Max Preps on April 11, 2017.
(3) Riverdale head coach Randy Coffman was named the National Coach of the Year by Max Preps.