Hornets.com 1-on-1: Utah's Gordon Hayward
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com
December 17, 2010
Prior to Fridays Western Conference matchup in the New Orleans Arena, Hornets.com caught up with Utah Jazz rookie Gordon Hayward, the ninth overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft. Hayward, who worked out for the Hornets in June but was selected before their turn in the first round, became a household name during the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
As a sophomore for mid-major Butler University, the Indiana native led his team on an unlikely run to the championship game, where the Bulldogs were edged by Duke University. As a result of his star turn during March Madness, Hayward emerged as an NBA lottery pick, just two years after hed been relatively lightly-recruited coming out high school in 2008.
Hornets.com: Whats been the biggest adjustment youve had to make on the court, from the college game to the pros?
Hayward: I think the shot clock is a big, big adjustment. Twenty-four seconds is a lot different from 35, especially coming from a place (Butler) where we liked to use the clock and find the best available shot. In the NBA, decisions have to be made more quickly, both offensively and defensively.
Hornets.com: Whats been the most surprising thing to you about the NBA as a rookie?
Hayward: The (lack of) physicality on the defensive end, especially out on the perimeter. You cant be that physical with guys out there. In college you can be a little bit more physical and bump guys, but if you do that here, its going to be a foul. So thats a little bit of a surprise. Its another adjustment you have to make.
Hornets.com: What do you feel like are some of the things youre learning as a 20-year-old rookie playing for Jerry Sloan?
Hayward: His tough-minded defensive philosophy and the (mindset) of going out there and competing hard. He gets you working and makes sure youre working hard on every single possession. For me, I think thats really important, learning how to be a professional and going in working every single day.
Hornets.com: Obviously you became one of the faces of the NCAA Tournament last season and helped lead Butler to the Final Four and title game. Whats it like for you to see, when you look at Butlers 2010-11 schedule, that theyre on national TV frequently now, including Saturdays CBS game vs. Stanford?
Hayward: [smiles] Its definitely a very cool feeling, being able to see your old school on TV all the time, and get a little more recognition. I think they deserved a little more of that recognition even before I got there; they just didnt get to the (NCAA) finals like we were able to. They had many great, winning seasons, but even a Sweet 16 appearance isnt going to get you that kind of attention.
It wasnt just me by any means, but it was a great run. Ive been watching all of their games on TV so far, and Im definitely going to be watching them Saturday. Its kind of cool to see how the program is progressing. Other programs are starting to play them in home-and-homes. It wouldve been nice to play some of the other in-state schools like Purdue and (Indiana) while I was there, but maybe now they can get that going.
Hornets.com: Which mid-major college teams do you think could be this seasons Butler?
Hayward: You know, I havent really been able to follow it enough to make a statement like that, but I know every year, there are going to be teams that surprise. In the NCAA Tournament, anything can happen, so if a team can put a good run together and start to gel, you have to watch out, especially those senior teams who have a lot of experience and have played together for a while.
Hornets.com: Many of the players who get picked in the NBA lottery are guys whove been talked about nationally since they were in their early teens, but you only received three Division I offers. Were there any advantages to not being a much-hyped AAU star or high school prospect?
Hayward: The only thing might be that I didnt feel like I was entitled to anything, so every day I went out and worked hard. Not to say that those other guys didnt work hard, but for me, it was one of those things where I had to work. I had to get my name out there and try to prove people wrong, because youre right I didnt go to the McDonalds All-American game or get highly recruited. For me, it was one of those things that made me realize I wasnt going to be given anything. I had to go out and take it if I wanted it.
Hornets.com: When you arrived at Butler for your freshman season in 2008, what would you have told someone if theyd said youd not only play in the NBA, but also leave school two years early as a lottery pick?
Hayward: I probably wouldve told them they were crazy. [smiles] I wasnt that highly recruited. I probably wouldve been a little more recruited if I had kept my (college) decision open a little bit longer, but I realized that I had a lot of work to do. I progressed a lot since I was a senior in high school. I got a lot better while I was at Butler. I feel like Im getting a lot better here. So I just continue to work and improve every day.
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