Who was the better high school player, Marc Loving or Nigel Hayes?
It’s a Glass City debate that has lasted for nearly a decade, from Tony Packo’s Cafe on the East Side to more than a dozen gyms across the High Level Bridge over the Maumee River that have made up Toledo’s City League. A rare four-year starter at St. John’s Jesuit, Loving landed an Ohio State offer during the summer of 2010 and wasted little time accepting it. Uptown near the Michigan border, Hayes was a dual-sport athlete who excelled in football and basketball for Whitmer but wasn’t offered by the Buckeyes until two years later and ultimately went to Wisconsin.
Since then, Hayes has played in two Final Fours and will go down as one of the Big Ten’s most-well-rounded players in history, while Loving has reached 1,000 career points at Ohio State.
“There was always a debate in town about which was the better player in high school,” longtime Toledo Blade preps sportswriter Steve Junga told The Dispatch in an email. “Some liked Marc's scoring ability and three-point range, and his ability to rebound. Others liked Nigel's more complete all-around game, including defense, and his ability to try to involve the whole team in the offense. He was less flashy scoring-wise perhaps, but probably more effective over the long haul.”
The two were AAU teammates and close friends, with Hayes describing the two as “brothers.” Tonight, the seniors will face each other for the final time barring a Big Ten tournament pairing when No. 16 Wisconsin comes to Value City Arena.
“When he got his offer, I think he was a freshman, and at the time I wanted to go to Ohio State as well,” Hayes said. “It didn’t necessarily play out that way, but there’s no hard feelings at all. He’s where he’s at, I’m where I’m at, life takes people on different paths. Our ultimate goal, what we said, was to get to the NBA, and hopefully I’ll see him at the next level.”
Loving was rated higher than Hayes by ESPN, 247Sports and Rivals. All listed him as a four-star prospect, while Rivals and 247Sports listed Hayes as a three-star.
A first-team all-Big Ten player last year, Hayes is one of only three Big Ten players to reach 1,700 points (1,707), 700 rebounds (720) and 250 assists (295).
“I think we saw the potential in what he could be if he continued to work,” Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said. “I don’t know if I would’ve ever envisioned whatever he’s at. We saw a very good player who had a chance.”
Ohio State coach Thad Matta has praised Loving this season and the direction in which he has led the team. He is 30th on the all-time scoring list but has never been higher than honorable mention all-conference.
“AAU makes a relationship where you never forget those bonds, times in hotels, different restaurants you go to,” Loving said. “We still communicate here and there, but we’re so busy taking care of school and helping manage our teams.”