COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Butler's
Their plans were altered by a growth spurt. Gordon went from 5-foot-11 as a freshman to 6-7 as a junior, and 6-8 as a senior. His first love had always been hoops, but as an average-sized guard, he said, "I looked at the future and figured playing basketball in college wasn't realistic."
With height, it became possible. Soon Hayward simultaneously had profiles on
Hayward's Q rating should explode this summer, though, following a freshman year at Butler in which he averaged 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds, and helped the Bulldogs reach the NCAA tournament after being picked to finish fifth in the Horizon League. On Wednesday morning at USA Basketball's 19-and-under trials, there was more buzz over Hayward than any other player in camp.
Sharing a court with mega-recruits like Florida-bound
No one was rushing to put him on their 2010 draft boards -- Hayward still projects as a 3-4 year college player who, at 200 pounds, has yet to fill out his frame -- but he could eventually become Butler's first NBA player since
The appeal of Hayward is his versatility. He was a guard early in high school. Last year at Butler, he says, "I ended up playing every position but true center. I'm too scrawny to play that." Both he and teammate
"We didn't have time to wait for guys to figure it out," Stevens said. "They had to do it on the fly, and be really impactful to give us a chance to be good. And both Gordon and Shelvin were that way from our first practice."
The Bulldogs surprisingly jumped out to a 19-1 start, into the national rankings, and won the Horizon League regular-season title for the third straight season. Hayward's signature game came at Davidson on BracketBuster weekend, when he scored 27 points (shooting 4-of-7 from long range) and grabbed nine rebounds in a 75-63 win, upstaging mid-major darling
Butler went on to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament as a No. 9 seed, and lost to LSU in the first round. Back at home on the day after that loss, Hayward sprained an ankle in a pickup game with old Brownsburg High teammates, and was forced to sit out for 3-4 weeks.
The rest may have been a blessing, given what was ahead on his agenda: This week's U.S. trials, a trip to New Zealand for the 19-and-under World Championships, an exhibition tour of Italy with the Bulldogs in August, and then a hellacious nonconference schedule starting in November. The Bulldogs have home games scheduled against Ohio State, Xavier and Davidson; road games at UAB and Northwestern; an appearance in the Anaheim Classic that also features UCLA, Clemson and West Virginia; and a Jimmy V Classic game against Georgetown at Madison Square Garden.
If Hayward performs as well this winter as he has this week, those teams will be wishing he had instead played tennis for Purdue.