Playground Notes: Tops fans get Haynes their way

Danny Schoenbaechler

He is but a wee little man. Like a constantly energized younger brother, he is both pesky and excitable.

But this little guy has tricks. And he likes to show them off.

He can make shots without looking, while flipping upside down.

He can also hit shots from far away, while almost falling out of bounds. He showed off both of these tricks in about 22 seconds during Saturday’s 73-58 Hilltopper victory over New Mexico State.

Antonio Haynes has done the unthinkable this season. This tick tack of a man has turned his stay at Western into that of legend thus far.

He symbolizes a second coming of the lovable little Topper point guard. Almost every Western victory could use the headline: Haynes sparks Toppers to victory. Over the past two seasons, those headlines read Patrick Sparks Toppers to victory.

The latter may be a better play on words, but Haynes has been just as spectacular.

Patrick Sparks was arguably Western’s top player in his two years here, and he was the undisputed fan favorite.

When Sparks left Western for Kentucky last spring, many Hilltopper faithful, felt personally hurt by their favorite Topper.

Sparks became a Judas or Benedict Arnold, which helps make the hardwood shine even brighter against Haynes’ Grand Canyon-sized smile. Haynes has become the great healer of Hilltopper pain. Rescuing an 0-5 team is one thing, but ridding a city of its inferiority complex is another.

Western will never be UK. But Haynes already is what Sparks once was.

As a junior college transfer he has but one more year of eligibility left after this season, which would actually finish what would have been Spark’ four year career.

Patrick basically received a promotion and I wish him luck next year on one of college basketball’s grandest stages (But Rupp Arena is still no Freedom Hall).

But I do believe that Haynes has no reason to feel inadequate when compared to anyone.

At 5-foot-9, he wouldn’t intimidate many girl scouts. But his game and ability to draw people with him, would intimidate anyone the Sun Belt Conference can throw at him.

He is averaging 12.4 points, 4.4 assists and 1.14 steals per game. Last year Sparks averaged 13.3 points, 5.9 assists and 2.21 steals. Sparks gets the edge in each, but the margin is slimmer than Kate Moss’ waistline.

Basically, these ramblings mean one thing. Hating Sparks is useless, because this year’s No. 3 has taken over where last year’s No. 22 left off.

Danny Schoenbaechler is a Herald sports columnist and sports editor. You can reach him at [email protected]