VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — Damani Hayes began his collegiate career at the South Dakota School of Mines in 2018. After two years in Rapid City, Hayes took his talents to USD to play for the Coyotes.

Hayes has seen his minutes increase each of his three seasons with the Coyotes. From averaging 10 minutes a night his first year to 26 minutes per game this season, his consistent effort and hard work are what he points to for the jump.

“What’s underestimated is just the effort piece each day, being consistent. On all the teams that I’ve been on, the people who give effort every day and are showing up every day ready to go to each practice, lift, whatever it is, those are the guys that I’ve seen have success,” Hayes said.

“You watch him on the floor, there’s a lot of things that don’t show up in the box score. But he’s a great screener. He’s an excellent rebounder. He’s an unbelievable teammate. He’s a great defender, and he just shows up every game ready to work,” head coach Eric Peterson said.

The Mankato, Minnesota, native is pulling down 6.9 rebounds, which leads the team and ranks fifth in the Summit League, an impressive feat for a 6-foot-4 guard.

“It doesn’t take any skill to rebound, right? It’s all about effort and just taking that step to go to the glass. And at one point this year, he’s averaging three offensive rebounds a game, which is an elite number,” Peterson said.

Hayes first came to Vermillion as a walk-on, and now to start every game as a fifth-year senior, it’s a dream becoming a reality.

“Each year I had a goal. First year, to be a practice player, get a scholarship. And then my second and third year, it’s been to start and contribute at a high level. And so, I would say, yeah maybe I’ve imagined it and thought about it a lot, but through the years, man, I’ve really just been focused on the day-to-day,” Hayes said.

Hayes averages nearly six points per game this season. He and the Coyotes return to action Saturday at rival, SDSU.