My path to the pros

Jazz forward Gordon Hayward recalls the days before he got paid to play.

Originally Published: June 29, 2013
By LaRue Cook | ESPN The Magazine

Gordon Hayward, Tayshaun Prince Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesAs a kid, Hayward played tennis with his twin sister, Heather.

The beginning

I played everything growing up: basketball, tennis, soccer, baseball, football. I started playing basketball when I was 4 in a rec league at Garfield Park in Indianapolis. Brownsburg, where I'm from, doesn't even have organized ball until second grade. In first grade I added tennis, which I played with my twin sister, Heather, and baseball, which I played up until junior high. In fifth grade, I tried football and I was the QB, but we ran an option offense, so I got hit a lot. One year of that was enough for me. And soccer? You just run too much with nothing really happening. With basketball, though, I knew I had something by third grade. In that Brownsburg rec league, you couldn't score more than 14 points in a game, so I would stop at 14 and spend the rest of the game dribbling around until I could get my teammates layups. We got to the championship game, and I thought I had 13 points, with a chance to send the game to OT with a free throw. Turns out, I already had 14, had to sit out the OT and we lost. I hated it.

The middle school days

Believe it or not, I almost gave basketball up in seventh grade because of my height. My seventh- and eighth-grade summers, I sat on the bench in AAU, and my dad was even the coach! I just wasn't as good yet -- it was like I was a boy playing against guys who were older and becoming men. It was pretty tough mentally. I'd always been the guy making the plays.

The high school years

I hit a growth spurt my sophomore year, and my first offer came my junior year. Butler was the first D1 school to offer, and that was when I really realized that I might be able to play at the next level. It's funny. I grew up 20 minutes from Butler, but both my parents went to Purdue, so that was my school. But I visited Butler, and coach [Brad] Stevens was the man. It was so obvious that Butler was the school for me. Yeah, I visited Michigan and Purdue, and they were nice, but they felt too far from home.

Looking back on it now, I'm glad I played so many sports. I don't agree with the way kids are starting to focus on just one from an early age. I think if I would've played just one, I would've burned out.

More rising stars retrace their paths to the pros:

Maya Gabeira | Paul Goldschmidt | Brandon Jennings | Cam Newton | Jozy Altidore | Ashton Eaton | Maya Moore | Michael Crabtree | Ian Kinsler | C.J. Wilson | Nnamdi Asomugha | Bernard Pollard | Richard Seymour | Michelle Wie | Brittany Lincicome | Gordon Hayward | DeMarcus Cousins | Matt Flynn | Jairus Byrd | Rey Maualuga | Domata Peko | Le'Ron McClain | Glen Perkins | Jeff Halpern | Jay Feely

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