Hayes and his teammates agreed that they were "surprised" when they learned Monday that Crawford was transferring. He had played in all 12 games and was averaging 13 minutes per game, the sixth highest total on the team. However, he had played a total of just seven minutes in UK's last two games.
"I knew he was not playing as well as he would have liked," Hayes said. "I knew when he did get playing time that he felt like he should be doing more. But that's what happens to freshmen.
"I had to wait my turn. Kelenna (Azubuike) had to wait. Bobby (Perry) is waiting. It just comes with the territory when you come to a school like Kentucky. I thought Joe understood that. But it is tough to go from being the man in high school to a role player here. Not everybody can do it."
Perry said he knew what to expect last year because he was playing behind Hayes just as he is this season.
"I knew I did not know it all and I was also behind a guy like Chuck who is an awesome player," Perry said. "I knew my time would come.
"Joe's time would have come, too. But he's playing behind Kelenna. Nobody was down on him. We knew he could play."
UK not waiving letter-of-intent
Crawford, a McDonald's All-American last year, could pay a hefty price for transferring before the end of his freshman year. He's been granted his release by UK to attend any school he wishes, but Kentucky will not waive his national letter-of-intent which requires a player to complete one year at a school or lose a year of eligibility.
"If we let him out of it, it would be precedent setting," said Scott Stricklin, UK's media relations director, Tuesday. "Our concern is that if we waived it, it would let athletes come in and try out for a semester and then just leave."
Schools were granted the option of waiving the rule this year and Kentucky is the first school to have to deal with a freshman basketball player leaving at midseason. If Crawford left after the season, he could transfer, sit out next season and have three years of eligibility left. Now he'll have to sit out a year and if he elects to play the second semester next season when he becomes eligible, he'll have just 1 1/2 years of eligibility left.
Stricklin said Crawford and his family "understand the issues" about leaving Kentucky now.
Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said Tuesday he "enjoyed" having Crawford at Kentucky and wished him well in his future career.
"Whenever someone leaves, it gives someone else an opportunity to step up and contribute," Smith said. "We have a lot of guys eager to play and we will need their enthusiasm as we get ready to play a good Vanderbilt team (Wednesday night)."
Crawford has struggled with his shooting
Crawford was part of what most recruiting analysts considered the nation's best recruiting class last year. He was averaging 13.3 minutes, 3.8 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, but was shooting just 35 percent overall and 20 percent from 3-point range.
His teammates said Kentucky's perceived abundance of young talent was no reason for Crawford to leave.
"We have a lot of good players, but that's no reason to quit," Perry said. "My view is that you wait your turn. I'm not sure what Joe was thinking, but there is always room for a good player to contribute."
"I know we are a deep team. A lot of guys get minutes," Hayes said. "I was just clueless about this. I thought everybody, including Joe, was happy. But you live and learn that what appears to be the case isn't always that way."