Gordon Hayward. SO. Butler
Gordon Hayward will be the least known player on this list from the smallest conference as well. Going unnoticed appears to be no problem for Hayward as he chose Butler over instate Purdue, but he may not have a choice to be under the radar for much longer.
The 6’8 Hayward had a fabulous freshmen season while posting 13 points and 7 rebounds with a steal and a block a game. His shooting numbers, as expected for a Butler player were great, 48% from the field and 45% from downtown.
He parlayed that success to a USA U 19 team tryout, and he shined..
Hayward’s Q rating should explode this summer, though, following a freshman year at Butler in which he averaged 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds, and helped the Bulldogs reach the NCAA tournament after being picked to finish fifth in the Horizon League. On Wednesday morning at USA Basketball’s 19-and-under trials, there was more buzz over Hayward than any other player in camp.
Sharing a court with mega-recruits like Florida-bound Kenny Boynton and former top 100 big men such as Minnesota’s Ralph Sampson III and Georgia’s Howard Thompkins, Hayward dominated an early scrimmage with his stellar long-range shooting (6-of-9 from the field for 15 points) and passing ability (three assists, no turnovers). He had the gallery of NBA scouts and college coaches atwitter. “This Hayward kid is impressive,” one scout remarked. “He’s not just a shooter, either — he can put the ball on the floor and make plays.”
No one was rushing to put him on their 2010 draft boards — Hayward still projects as a 3-4 year college player who, at 200 pounds, has yet to fill out his frame — but he could eventually become Butler’s first NBA player since Ralph “Buckshot” O’Brien in 1953. In the meantime, after making Jamie Dixon’s 12-man roster for the 19-and-under team, Hayward should begin to be viewed as a high-level national talent rather than merely the All-Horizon League player he was as a freshman. As Butler’s Stevens says, Hayward is a player “with a very high ceiling.”
The appeal of Hayward is his versatility. He was a guard early in high school. Last year at Butler, he says, “I ended up playing every position but true center. I’m too scrawny to play that.”
To improve this season and beyond Hayward must improve his strength and be able to finish around the basket. Consistency is also an issue from game to game last season, but I would chalk that up mostly to being a freshmen.
Expect another great year Butler this season led by Hayward and post presence Matt Howard.
Credit to Luke Winn for the quote