SHELBY — Shelby senior Joseph Hayes enjoyed a meteoric rise in the latter half of his four-year varsity basketball career, rising from a role player to the top vote-getter in the West Michigan Conference and a member of the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan “BCAM’s Best” list in Division 3.

Hayes hopes he’s in line for even more, and showed his ambition by signing to Hope College. He celebrated with a small ceremony Monday at the high school.

“Basketball’s been my passion since I was a little kid,” Hayes said. “I think there’s a lot of unaccomplished things (for me) in basketball, just to see how good I can get. To play at the next level is pretty awesome.”

Hayes was a four-year varsity player at Shelby, but his work in the offseasons was what forged him into a player who put up big numbers despite being the focus of opposing game plans every night.

“I think I just set a lot of time aside in the summer,” Hayes said. “I knew I needed to put in the work to prove people wrong and put Shelby kind of back on the map. We were off track for a few years. It was just time.”

Shelby coach Rick Zoulek said Hayes’ rise is a mark of that time, noting that the senior doesn’t possess overwhelming athletic skill nor raw physical talent, yet worked his way into becoming an excellent player.

“I’m so excited for Joseph,” Zoulek said. “Joseph worked constantly on improving his game these past two years. He would be the first to tell you that his teammates really helped him and trusted him...Not only did he give his best to the team at practice and games, he worked to become as good as he could be by developing his skills.”

Hayes’ signing continues a pipeline from Shelby to the Division III school. The Tigers have supplied several players to the Dutchmen over the years, including most recently Jason Beckman and Danny Beckman, both of whom Hayes counts as influences in his career. Hayes said that connection helped him feel more comfortable at Hope.

Asked which game he’ll remember most at Shelby, Hayes smiled and gave the answer everyone else likely would too: His 40-point performance in a close win at archrival Hart this last season.

“We were up big and they stormed back and we ended up closing it out,” Hayes said. “I didn’t realize until the end how many points I actually had, but that was pretty sweet.”