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Gordon Hayward: Indiana Basketball Legend

Gordon Hayward was born March 23, 1990 in Brownsburg, Indiana. He’s in his first season as a professional basketball for the Utah Jazz of the National Basketball Association.

Hayward attended Brownsburg High School, where he excelled in both basketball and tennis. He played basketball his freshman season, but was a scrawny 5-foot-11 guard and considered giving up the game to focus solely on tennis. His parents convinced him to stick with the sport a little longer, and by the time he was a junior, Hayward had sprouted up to 6’7″. Unlike most kids who experience significant growth spurts, Hayward didn’t lose the coordination and quickness he possessed as a smaller player, making him an intriguing college prospect.

Though he had offers from IUPUI and Purdue University, Hayward committed to Brad Stevens and Butler University at the end of his junior year, a fortuitous decision for all involved. Hayward dominated during his final season at Brownsburg, leading the team to the Indiana Class 4A state championship game, and hitting the game winning layup at the buzzer to defeat Marion High School 40-39.

Gordon Hayward hits the game winning shot in the Indiana Class 4A Championship Game

 

Hayward began his college career with little fanfare or hype. The Bulldogs were coming off a 30 win season, but had lost four starters and weren’t projected to contend in for the Horizon League crown. As he’s done throughout his career, Hayward surprised everyone by helping to lead the young Dawgs to a 26-5 record, a Horizon League championship, and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. After averaging 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, he was selected first team All-Conference, and won the Horizon League Newcomer of the Year award.

In between his freshman and sophomore seasons Hayward earned a coveted invitation to play for Team USA in the FIBA Under-19 World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand. He was the breakout star for Team USA, and was named to the first team All-Tournament squad.

 

With expectations high heading into his second collegiate season, Hayward not only didn’t disappoint, he exceeded even the most wildly optimistic projections.  He finished in the top five in both scoring and rebounding in the Horizon League on his way to winning Player of the Year honors and leading Butler to an undefeated record in conference play. The team earned a five seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they defeated UTEP, Murray State, Syracuse and Kansas State to advance to the Final Four for the first time in school history.

As fate would have it, the Bulldogs first trip coincided with the event being held in downtown Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.  The entire city, regardless of prior affiliation, rallied around Hayward and the Bulldogs, and they delivered by first knocking off Michigan State, and then coming within a fraction of an inch from beating Duke in the Championship Game.

Gordon Hayward barely misses a half court shot to win the NCAA Championship

 

Following the thrilling tournament run, Hayward was considered by many scouts to be a Top 20 pick in the upcoming NBA draft. After considering all angles, Hayward and his family decided it was best to strike while the iron was hot, and he declared himself eligible to be selected, prematurely ending his college career. Many Indianapolis sports fans were hoping that Hayward would be selected by the Indiana Pacers with the 10th pick in the 2010 draft, but the Utah Jazz took away that possibility by landing him with the 9th pick. He is currently entering his first season with the Jazz.

 

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