Moorhead's Harden-Hayes says decision 'bittersweet' to transfer from Bison, but Kansas City 'right fit'
Former North Dakota State forward and Moorhead High School graduate Maleeck Harden-Hayes recently committed to the Kansas City Roos after entering the transfer portal during the offseason.
FARGO — Former North Dakota State forward Maleeck Harden-Hayes said there were multiple reasons why he decided to enter the transfer portal and ultimately picked the Kansas City Roos, including playing closer to family and a chance to showcase more of his offensive skills.
The Moorhead High School graduate committed to the Kansas City men’s basketball program earlier this week to remain in the Summit League after three seasons with the Bison.
“It was definitely bittersweet," said Harden-Hayes, who moved to Moorhead before seventh grade. “I’ve been here a long time being a Moorhead kid, playing at NDSU, being a hometown kid, having the support of so many friends and Bison nation. It’s a dream come true for sure, but I just feel like the lord was telling me to explore other places for the rest of my career.”
The 6-foot-7 Harden-Hayes has two years of eligibility remaining.
“I wanted to find the right fit for me,” Harden-Hayes said. “I felt like all the intangibles I was looking for in a school, Kansas City had it.”
Harden-Hayes averaged 5.3 points and 3.1 rebounds in 30 games (one start) for the Bison this past season, averaging 16.6 minutes per game. He played in 75 career games, including 22 starts, during his NDSU career. Harden-Hayes started 21 of 22 games in 2020-21.
“Fargo will always have a place in my heart, Bison nation as well and their fans as well as the coaching staff and former teammates there as well,” Harden-Hayes said. “I’m definitely excited to be part of this new journey, going into a new school, making new friends, making new relationships.”
Harden-Hayes said he received interest from around 30 schools after he entered the portal with around half of those schools being NCAA Division I programs. Staying in the Summit League wasn't necessarily a priority, but Kansas City proved to be a good fit with its proximity to Ames, Iowa, where Harden-Hayes has family.
“Being closer to some family in Ames, Iowa, was also a factor,” Harden-Hayes said. “I felt like all the intangibles I was looking for in a school, Kansas City had it. … There were many factors that led up to the decision, and makes it a hard one, but Kansas City felt like the right place for me.”
Harden-Hayes said he likes the vision that Kansas City head coach Billy Donlon has for him for the next two seasons and also likes the Roos style of play.
“It’s a fast team, very defensive-oriented,” Harden-Hayes said. “With my skill set, I’m able to fit right into that system being athletic, long and getting up and pressure on defense.”
Harden-Hayes said he felt like he connected with the outgoing veteran players at NDSU that included guards Sam Griesel and Tyree Eady and forward Rocky Kreuser. That also played into his decision to transfer.
“There were guys leaving that I felt like I was part of that group as well,” Harden-Hayes said.
Harden-Hayes thinks playing for the Roos will give him a chance to expand his overall game.
“I feel like my offensive skill set wasn’t shown at NDSU very much,” Harden-Hayes said. “Defensively, I know I can guard the 1 through 4 (positions), bring a lot of energy, rebound, contest shots and be a really good defensive presence.”
Harden-Hayes said there will be a built-in comfort level remaining in the Summit League.
“I think it’s a good thing, 100%, understanding what I’m going to be facing,” Harden-Hayes said. “It’s going to be less of an adjustment. I know what I need to do to play against guys I have played against my whole career.”
Harden-Hayes said it will be a unique experience to play against NDSU next season in conference play.
“It will definitely be different for sure,” Harden-Hayes said. “I have a lot of love for Fargo and their program as well as the fans there. As soon as I step on the court, I’m going to give it my all for all 40 (minutes).”