Killian Hayes tells Sekou – and Detroit: "I'm coming"


Pistons fans could sense it Wednesday night, and so could the point guard they've been waiting so long to embrace.

"We're building a whole new team," said 19-year-old Killian Hayes.

They sure are. It will be headlined by Hayes, drafted seventh overall by the Pistons. It will also feature Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey, drafted No. 16 and No. 19, respectively. It won't feature Luke Kennard or Bruce Brown, discarded by new general manager Troy Weaver.

Kennard and Brown were purported building blocks. But Weaver wants to lay his own foundation as he tries to take the Pistons somewhere they haven't been since the mid-2000's.

"We just wanted to be aggressive and attack the draft," he said. "That’s always going to be our way of doing business when it comes to the draft. Gives us a chance to continue to build on the foundation and improve the culture."

At least one pillar remains from before Weaver's time: 2019 first-round pick Sekou Doumbouya. Between Doumbouya and Hayes, the Pistons have a pair of teenagers from France bursting with potential. The former was born in 2000, the latter in 2001.

Now they'll hope to grow up in Detroit, side by side.

"As soon as I got drafted, Sekou sent me the eyes emoji," Hayes said. "And I told him in French, J'arrive, which means, 'I’m coming.'"

He added, "I see Detroit’s making a lot of trades, so we’ll see what happens. I hope he stays in Detroit and everything goes well."

Clearly, nothing's guaranteed under Weaver. But it feels safe to say that Doumbouya is a major piece of the future here, one half a French connection that has shocked to life a weary fanbase and could electrify it for years to come.

"I’m excited for it," said Hayes. "I knew I had had a lot of talks with Coach Casey and Troy (before the draft). I wasn't 100 percent sure that I was going to go to Detroit, but I had a good feeling about it from the meetings we had, the talks that we had, and Detroit was the team I wanted to go to."

Weaver said Hayes was "our guy." The Pistons didn't draft him because they have a long-term need at point guard. They drafted him because he was the best player on their board. He compared Hayes to "a bigger version of (Dorgan) Gragic."

"I think he’ll help us right off the bat," Weaver said. "For a young player he has a defensive mindset that we want to establish here, and he can also really see the floor and spread the ball around. (Those) are two things he’ll help us with right away."

The Pistons had options at No. 7, including Iowa State point guard Tyrese Halliburton. Weaver said they preferred Hayes' "size and physicality." They also loved his character, something Weaver has stressed since the moment he arrived.He would draft people, not players, he said.

Hayes was the first example.

"He has a really competitive spirit, that’s the biggest trait we look for -- wanting competitive guys," Weaver said, who once placed a premium on the same trait in Russell Westbrook. "He’s been a pro for a while, since he was 16, so I think his learning curve may be a little faster than a normal rookie in the states.

"He was coached hard over in Europe, he has high basketball character. His parents did a tremendous job raising him. So we were excited about the young man as a person, as well as a player."