Gordon Hayward (March 23, 1990, Indianapolis) is not going to let an injury tell him he can not do something. He did not break the wrist the year he should start the university recruitment. He did not measure 15 centimetres less than the doctors promised him. It did not fail the shot to win the NCAA in 2010, in what would have been the most significant victory in the history of college sports. On the contrary, each blow makes him stronger, harder, better basketball player. And his left ankle, destroyed in his debut with the Celtics, is the last test.
He grew up in Brownsburg, on the outskirts of Indiana, one of the cities that most love sports: basketball, football, motor racing… and Gordon chose tennis. Well, it was tennis that picked him. Hayward already had a preference for basketball, but by then, he did not measure up. At age 5, Gordon sat his father on the sofa in his home and explained his only dream: «I want to play in the NBA.» Fifteen years before being chosen by the Jazz in the 2010 draft and twelve before deciding to play in Butler.
He started at the local high school, the Brownsburg HS. Until then, his father was his only coach. «We would get up before going to class to train. We had a shooting routine called «Steve Alford» that we did every morning in the backyard, «explained Hayward. Alford, current head coach of UCLA, was one of the best players in the state: 4 years playing for the Hoosiers, national champion in 1987, second highest scorer of the Indiana University, Mr. Basketball in 1983 and twice All-American. A legend.
He arrived at high-school measuring only 5’11 » [1.80 meters]. He was very close to leaving basketball for tennis, and only the insistence of his mother convinced him to continue dividing his time between the two sports. For his second year, Hayward grew by 13 centimetres, and stood well above his parents’ height: «It was definitely a gift from God,» said his father. Growing up physically allowed him to grow his basketball. His first mate in the match came before starting his third year: never before had anyone seen him do it, neither in training nor a match. «The bench went crazy,» Gordon recalls. But by then, Hayward was still attracting little attention. Little, to say nothing.
He was still 6’6″ [1.97 meters] before starting his junior year in Brownsburg, a course that also started with a wrist injury. But he managed to sneak into an event with the 100 prospects of the state, which was his first big showcase. And there came love at first sight. Brad Stevens discovered him and was impregnated: «I was impressed,» said the current coach of the Celtics. Hayward could have followed Alford’s path with the Hoosiers. Or he could have opted for the most loyal option: his parents were both former students of Purdue, and the Boilmakers offered him a full scholarship.
But Butler went ahead. When Stevens, in his second campaign as head coach of the Bulldogs, went to visit him, he made his intentions clear: «We feel he is a good basketball player, and he knows it. But he has no idea how good it is. » Hayward only heard praise, but there was an idea from Stevens that marked his decision and his future in basketball: «I always had the dream of playing in the NBA, but Brad was the first one who made me think that someday, «Hawyard said in his presentation with the Celtics.
It was the summer of 2007. And after accepting Butler’s offer, and with still a year of high school to attend, Hayward decided to launch the last bet for tennis: he trained for months to try to win the state tournament in his last year -academic. To that date, he had a record with only four losses, and several universities asked for him, but he did not get the title. Hayward could not, or at least not in tennis. Yes, he did it with the basketball team, also scoring the buzzer-beater to give Brownsburg the state title. Leader, referent, soul and in the end, a hero for the locality. A Disney final before moving to college:
A hero at home
He came to an orphan Butler from his three best men last year: Mike Green, A.J. Graves and Pete Campbell. Between the three seniors, they scored 40 points of the 68.8 scored by Stevens’ team. A balance of 30-4 and a second-round defeat at Madness against Tennessee after winning the conference title, a historic season. With Hayward as a freshman, Butler added 26-6 losing the conference final and in the first round of the Madness. A good year, not extraordinary. But that same year, the summer of 2009, marked the career of Gordon Hayward for good.
After being named All-Horizon and Rookie of the Year at the conference, the United States team called Hayward for the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand. A team that was his teammate Shelvin Mack in addition to other future NBA as Klay Thompson or Seth Curry. A team that Hayward led from start to finish, despite not scoring against Greece. Back in Butler, Hayward brought the gold, being part of the all-team and the attention of the entire national press. Suddenly, the spotlights were on the Bulldogs. Would Stevens’ pupils be able to take the pressure?
The 2010 season of Butler is one of the most beautiful pages of most recent university sports. On December 22, the Bulldogs lost to Alabama-Birmingham and went 8-4. After that night, they linked 25 consecutive victories: TWENTY-FIVE. Eighteen conferences, to finish unbeaten, two more in the conference tournament adding the title and the last five in Madness: Texas-El Paso by 18, Murray State by 2, Syracuse by 4, Kansas State by 7 and Michigan State in the national semifinals for 2.
That was the Butler method. «We’ve been talking all year of the next game, just the next game. Now we can say that the next game is the final of the NCAA,» said Hayward himself after the semifinal. Defence, team play and seek the imbalance of the opponent in the proper order. They were not the best attack, but they became the best defence. During the March tournament, Butler dropped his opponents by less than 60 points in all matches. In all, except one.
Fate wanted the final-four in 2010 to be in Indianapolis, home of Hayward and Stevens. They were locals before the Duke of Coach K; they were the Cinderella, they were the fairy tale, the dream of a state, almost of a country. It was David against Goliath. At halftime, Duke led 33-32. With 3:16 to play, the Blue Devils got the maximum: 60-55. At 0:03 seconds, Duke had Zoubek in the free line with only one point of advantage. He scored the first one…
Duke was the queen of the dance. Failing that shot was vital in Hayward’s career. If he had won, Gordon would have been the most prominent national hero of the decade, featured in all the basketball magazines and most likely, would have shot to the top-3 of the next draft. Failing gave him something that only a person who knows the taste of defeat has: hunger. One month and two days after the missed shot, Hayward officially announced that he would not return to Butler, that he would enter that 2010 draft. It was not his decision. Or it was, but it did not take it alone.
The first to support any resolution was Brad and the rest of his teammates in Butler. But there was a problem: Hayward had no agent; after his World U-19 he received many offers, but the family did not accept any deal. It was Gordon Hayward Sr. who studied the operation of the draft and his mother «put the decision in the hands of God». In fact, when leaving the pavilion after the final, his mother said that «if God had wanted him to play in the NBA, [God] would have gotten shot,» to which his father replied: «What else can you do? Back to take Butler to the final and put the shot? «. Curiously, Butler came back to the final, this time without Hayward. They also lost.
All the mocks put Hayward top-20, most likely the draft lottery … John Wall was elected at # 1. DeMarcus Cousins at #5. And Hayward was chosen at #9 by the Utah Jazz, a place ahead of Paul George, to whom fate has united him in the misfortune of an injury. He could have played in Indiana, he could have followed his career at home, but Sloan’s team bet on him. «It was a dream to play for the Pacers, but the same dream as any Indiana kid. I grew up watching Reggie Miller … but it’s also a dream to play in the NBA”.
Word of Hayward, a boy who fulfilled his dream. The one to play in the NBA.
Original article: https://www.solobasket.com/nba/hayward-el-sueno-de-un-nino