"He's an All-American in my eyes and I guarantee you there are a lot of coaches in America that would love to have Chuck Hayes."
Hayes is averaging 11.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 28.6 minutes for game for No. 8 Kentucky going into tonight's home game against William & Mary. He's also third on the team in assists with 18, second in blocked shots with 10 and second in steals with 17.
From the field, he's shooting 43.7 percent and at the foul line he's making 79.4 percent of his shots.
"He's got to shoot better from the field," Smith said. "This is the worst he's shot in his career. There's nothing wrong with Chuck Hayes that a couple of easy baskets wouldn't help. He's finding open people and draws a lot of attention. An All-American does that for your teammates."
Opponents focusing on him
Hayes is finding out what it is like to be the focus of an opponent's defense. Against Louisville, he was normally surrounded by defenders when he got the ball inside. In the first half, he forced shots. In the second half, he found open teammates and got four assists to help the Cats overcome a 16-point halftime deficit.
"He's a guy who will try to take it upon himself (to score), but he understands this is a team game and that's what you have to continue to remind even the great players," Smith said. "They can't win by themselves. That's the competitiveness in him. It's not a bad characteristic. It's not a selfish thing. It's just wanting to win so bad."
Smith said he doesn't blame opposing coaches for trying to take Hayes out of UK's game plan.
"If I'm scouting, that's the first guy I'm going to try to defend. Most coaches probably see that too," Smith said. "He's got to knock down some outside shots. They are giving him the perimeter shot. It's just not going in, but it will."
Hayes admitted he was trying to do too much himself the first half at Louisville.
"I knew we were struggling and I tried to take things upon myself that I shouldn't have. I know better than that," he said. "I just have to let the game come to me. It's not pressure, maybe just trying too hard."
William & Mary plays at fast pace
William & Mary (3-4) doesn't figure to make Kentucky try too hard tonight. The Tribe has lost four of its last five games. Smith says he still expects William & Mary, which has three players averaging in double figures, to play its customary fast pace that his team also enjoys. He's hoping that might help his team's passing.
"We just are not a very good passing team," Smith said. "Our low turnovers reflect we are handling the ball well, but we are not making good passes. Good shots start with good passes."
He says last year's veteran team may have spoiled him.
"We had guys like Erik Daniels, who was a great passer. Not just good, but great," Smith said. "This year passes are not being delivered at the proper time. I don't know why we won't throw it inside to guys in the post at the right time. We are dribbling too much."
Junior point guard Patrick Sparks got more praise from Smith for his 25-point effort against Louisville that earned him several national awards.
"I think it is a tribute to our team's effort," Sparks said of the awards. "Basketball is a team game and I am just part of the team."
So is Hayes, who insists winning is the only statistic that matters. He's also warning Kentucky's younger players not to overlook tonight's game and get caught in the emotion of Saturday's win at Louisville.
"I tell them, 'As good as things are now, they can go a 180 (degree turn) real quick. Things can get ugly around here and people aren't going to be telling you good game and patting you on the back if we lose. Then they will tell you all the plays that you should have done right,'" Hayes said.