Butler’s Hayward staying in NBA draft
AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Gordon Hayward is all in for the NBA draft.
Butler’s 6-foot-9 sophomore forward confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday that we will remain in the draft, giving up his final two years of college eligibility. He will discuss it during a news conference Friday.
“For me there really wasn’t any doubt,” Hayward said in a telephone interview. “I went into it and when I declared, this was what I decided I wanted to do. I hadn’t hired an agent because I hadn’t picked one yet and hadn’t done the interview process. If I had a breakdown or something, I would have come out.”
Most analysts projected Hayward to go somewhere between No. 10 and 20 when he declared last month, and Hayward says the projections haven’t changed since then.
But Hayward isn’t content to settle for 10 to 20. He has been working out at St.Vincent Sports Performance with other college prospects such as Northern Iowa’s Adam Koch and Purdue’s Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer.
Program director Ralph Reiff, who has helped other NBA players such as Greg Oden and Mike Conley prepare for the draft, insists Hayward is ready to make a difference in the NBA.
“If I were managing an NBA franchise I would start with Gordon Hayward,” said Reiff, who worked at Butler under then-coach Barry Collier. “He is capable of making a team-building impact similar to Kevin Durant. Gordon has a school boy look, a humble ‘I will help you first’ demeanor yet a competitive gear that will rip the heart out of an opponent. I see it every day in workouts. The NBA franchise that nurtures this young man will get a monster player.”
Hayward certainly hopes to fulfill that promise with his unique combination of skills.
Despite his height, he handles the ball like a point guard and is adept at getting to the basket. And though he led the Bulldogs in scoring, at 15.5 points per game last season, he also was their top rebounder (8.2) and one of Butler’s best passers.
What many thought he needed to work on, though, was his outside shot. As a freshman, Hayward connected on 47.9 percent from the field and 44.8 percent from 3-point range. Last season, his 3-point percentage dropped to 29.4 percent, perhaps the result of a back injury.
“You can improve on everything,” Hayward said. “You’re going to be playing against the best players in the world. One thing for me is I need to get my shooting touch back. I think that’s going to come back pretty quickly.”
Hayward was the Horizon League’s freshman of the year in 2009 and won the conference’s player of the year award this season after leading the Bulldogs to the only perfect conference record in Division I. In the NCAA tournament, scouts really took notice.
He preserved a second-round victory over Murray State by deflecting the ball into the backcourt, then led the Bulldogs past top-seeded Syracuse, second-seeded Kansas State and defending runner-up Michigan State in the next three games. That put Butler in its first ever national championship, and Hayward twice had a chance to beat Duke. But he missed a short baseline jumper with about 5 seconds left and then missed a buzzer-beating halfcourt heave.
Hayward, who is from nearby Brownsburg, Ind., insisted he never thought about the NBA until the season ended.
Now, he can’t think about anything else.
“It’s two years that I’ll definitely never forget, the best years of my life,” Hayward said. “It’s tough leaving them (teammates). But for me, it’s an opportunity to fulfill a dream. It’s really an opportunity to do what I want to do, and I haven’t looked back.”
The loss of Hayward means Butler will have to replace two starters from its runner-up team – Hayward and swingman Willie Veasley, who just finished his senior season.