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The Education Of Gordon Hayward
KELLI ANDERSON
May 31, 2010
It's been a wild ride for the darling of the NCAA tournament, who went from mid-major star to major NBA prospect
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May 31, 2010

The Education Of Gordon Hayward

It's been a wild ride for the darling of the NCAA tournament, who went from mid-major star to major NBA prospect

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The couple agreed: He would learn the draft process, and she would "put it in the Lord's hands and pray about it," Gordon Scott says. Their son would focus on school and Butler basketball. The father talked with agents, sifted through phone numbers of players who had pondered leaving early and weighed cautionary tales, such as that of former Dukie Josh McRoberts, who was expected to be a mid-first-round pick after his freshman year but fell to the second round after his sophomore season. Meanwhile, Stevens talked to G.M.'s and scouts and found that they were intrigued by Hayward's package of size, instincts and perimeter skills. "Comparing my notes to Brad's, it was pretty clear Gordon was projected in that 10-to-20 range," says Gordon Scott. And that was before the NCAA tournament, which "made him pop" on teams' radars, according to one Eastern Conference G.M.

As the Haywards drove away from Lucas Oil Stadium after the loss to Duke, Jody got in one last parry: "If God wanted him to go to the NBA, he would have hit the shot." But the others in the car agreed it was time for Hayward to go. "What else is he going to do," asks Gordon Scott, "get Butler all the way back to the final and hit the shot?"

A week later Gordon Scott met with his son for lunch and presented him with all the intelligence he had gathered. On April 14 Hayward declared for the draft without hiring an agent, though he and his family knew that barring injury or cold feet, he wasn't going back to college. "It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make," says Hayward, who made the choice official in a press conference on May 7. "From a basketball standpoint, it was kind of easy. What was difficult was leaving behind great people at Butler. My teammates were my best friends."

Hayward had been working with the staff at St. Vincent Sports Performance Center, an Indianapolis training facility that has prepared a number of draftees, including former first-rounders Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Daequan Cook and Jeff Teague. The comprehensive six-days-a-week, nine-hours-a-day program for prospects includes basketball-specific strength, agility and skills training, physiology and biomechanical assessments and a nutrition plan, which in Hayward's case recommends he up his caloric intake to 5,000 calories a day to add weight to his 207-pound frame. "We are trying to get these guys to be the best athletes and the best basketball players they have ever been in their lives," says director Ralph Reiff.

For the first two weeks Hayward got in workouts around his academic schedule. Once final exams were done on May 3, St. Vincent became a full-day job. Reiff had gathered feedback from scouts and G.M.'s who had questions about Hayward's strength and athleticism. "What we have found out is that he is very strong, he is very mature physically for his age, and the real upside is that he's not done," says Reiff, who relays such analysis back to teams. "And he is an extremely talented athlete. If he makes a mistake, he can recover and correct it."

Another concern was Hayward's shooting—after hitting 45% from the arc as a freshman, his percentage dropped to 29% this season as teams guarded him more effectively. After an initial adjustment period during which he was, he says, "trying too hard to get better" while shooting 50 NBA threes daily at St. Vincent, Hayward took the staff's advice and relaxed. In the four sessions before he went to Chicago, he made 59% of his three-pointers.

While Hayward was being prepped by St. Vincent, his dad was vetting prospective agents. He prepared a two-page survey for about 15 hopefuls that included questions ranging from What do you charge? to Should Gordon stay in the draft? to Whom would you recommend if we don't hire you? One agent called to complain about how many hours he was spending on his "thesis." "It was the most incredibly thorough process I've been through in 25 years," says Mark Bartelstein, the agent who survived to sign Hayward and take over St. Vincent's weekly bill, which Gordon Scott had been paying. "His parents didn't want to leave any stone unturned."

Now their son's fate is out of their hands. Hayward's first proving ground was the Chicago combine, a three-day invitation-only event for first- and second-round NBA draft prospects. The players are put through a battery of drills, measurements, physical tests and interviews. It wasn't a showcase for what is arguably Hayward's greatest strength, his feel for the game and his ability to make the right play at the right time, and it probably didn't affect his stock much.

Though some NBA observers still had questions—"I don't know that he can stay with threes defensively, but he has to because he can't guard fours," says one Eastern Conference G.M.—Hayward thinks he performed "all right" over the weekend. "I hope I impressed some people." It's likely he did: So many teams want to see Hayward that he won't be able to work out with all of them before the draft on June 24, says Bartelstein. "He's going to see pretty much everybody [drafting] from five to 15."

Wherever Hayward lands, Jody is at peace with her son's decision. She and her husband have come to believe there is a higher calling to his hoops success. "Look at us, we're two 5'10" average athletes," says Gordon Scott, who played high school tennis and baseball. "It doesn't make sense for him to be 6'8"." Adds Jody, "We think he has a purpose in life to be a positive influence, and basketball is his platform."

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