Hayes knows he can do even more

November 02, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

More than anything else, Chuck Hayes prides himself on being a team player.

He's been as content rebounding and playing defense in his two years at Kentucky as he would have been if he had averaged 20 points per game.

Yet he knows he may have to change his thinking a little bit this year to fill the inside void created by the loss of Marquis Estill and Jules Camara off last year's 32-win team.

"I don't think anybody has seen all I can do yet," said Hayes. "You've seen me when I had a specific role to play and had to do certain things to help the team. I know my ability. My family does.


"If there are games where I can showcase all my ability, so be it. Or if another guy is on fire, I'll gladly take a backseat and contribute where I can. But if we need scoring, I can do it. Maybe this could be my breakout season, but I know I just have to take it game by game and see what happens."

Hayes averaged 8.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 27.7 minutes per game last year as a sophomore while starting all 36 games. He shot 48.9 percent from the field.

He also took advantage of an opportunity last summer when he made the team that represented the United States in the Pan-American Games.

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith was not surprised that Hayes made the team and has his own lofty expectations for him this season.

"Chuck has the potential to be an All-American, and we're really going to need his toughness because he's as tough as any guy we've got," Smith said.

"He could be a go-to guy inside for us. He has the temperament, and skill, to be that kind of player. We need him to play inside. He's worked to improve his outside shot, but we can't play him out there at the expense of our overall offense. We've got other experienced outside shooters. He's so versatile, but we may not need 3-point shooting from him."

Hayes was just 8-for-33 from 3-point range last season, a 24 percent mark. He's confident he can shoot much better, but also knows he may well have to spend time playing inside along with forward Erik Daniels until Smith has time to develop a true center this season.

"I can do it against bigger guys. Size doesn't mean anything," Hayes said. "Size can be a factor, but I've always been told if your heart is in the game, you'll get something out of it whether you are guarding a guy who is 7-3 or 6-3.

"Me and Erik get on each other about who will be the five (center) man this year. We really don't care. Our defense is always a help defense. If a big guy posts up on the block, we will have somebody else helping trap him. You never really have to guard someone down there by yourself. He will have to score on two or three guys, not just on me."

If he does have to play center, Hayes thinks he could have an advantage on the offensive end.

"There are not many Kevin Garnetts or Tim Duncans out there. I should be able to go past a bigger guy. Or I might stop and just shoot. I would have a lot of scenarios that could work to my advantage," Hayes said.

Hayes learned several things during his Pan-Am experience he thinks will help him this season. However, the biggest lesson he learned was just how hard players in other countries work to improve their skills.

"You have guys in other countries trying to take your spot in the NBA," Hayes said. "They are out there putting in the work and are dedicated to the game 24/7 (24 hours a day, seven days a week). I have tutors, conditioning, weight room. I don't have the same time to work on my game. There are hundreds of foreign players trying to get my job (in the NBA).

"I have tried to translate to my teammates that it is going to be tough once they leave here and if they want to pursue a (professional) basketball career, they better do something to stick out."

That's what Hayes wants his whole team to do this year just as it did last season when it swept the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament championship and won 32 games before losing to Marquette to miss a spot in the NCAA Final Four.

Hayes won't talk about UK's season-ending loss to Marquette in the NCAA Tournament. He even had his parents, who have taped every TV game of his collegiate career, throw away the game tape.

"I have no memories of that game at all," Hayes said. "I'm looking forward, not backward.

"Kentucky basketball is everything it was hyped to be, plus more, when I was recruited to come here. My first two years here have been so different. My freshman year was up and down and my sophomore year went by so quick. I've seen the highs and lows of Kentucky basketball already. I wouldn't change anything. I've had fun my two years here and have two more left to hopefully help this team do even more."

Central Kentucky News Articles