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Chet Strange | Special to the Tribune Gordon Scott Hayward sits in the Hayward's Brownsburg, Ind., home. Behind him, a photo collage from the Brownsburg Bulldogs' State Championship win in 2008.
Jazz’s Gordon Hayward: The brother from Brownsburg
NBA » Second-year Utah forward’s roots are thick, strong in Indiana.
First Published Feb 23 2012 10:08 pm • Last Updated May 24 2012 11:38 pm

Brownsburg, Ind. • Nine miles from this hardwood floor, in downtown Indianapolis, stand two venues that hosted iconic moments in the life of Gordon Hayward. In one of them, he won. In the other, he almost won. Here, in front of 300 witnesses, with his long arms engulfing his twin sister, he’s losing it.

While celebrating her wedding, Hayward — who walked stoically off the court after barely missing a would-be historic shot, earned scholar-athlete honors in computer engineering, persevered through his NBA rookie season and plays video games intensely — is overwhelmed.

At a glance

Seasoned sophomore

Gordon Hayward’s NBA career statistics:

Season Pts. Rbs. Ast. FG.

2010-11 5.4 2.0 1.1 .485

2011-12 9.4 2.8 3.2 .421

Recent slump

Hayward’s offensive production has dropped off in the past six games after a six-game spurt:

Segment FG Pts.

Last six .333 5.3

Previous six .581 14.8

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His recent slump aside, the second-year pro who’s playing with teammate Derrick Favors in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando represents the Jazz’s future. He’s a face of the franchise, appearing on the "We Are Utah" billboards. He’s Brownsburg’s boy, Butler’s lasting image, Gordon and Jody’s son, Kolbi’s boyfriend and Boris’ video-game rival.

At this moment, Gordon Daniel Hayward is just Heather’s brother.

They arrived as answers to a mother’s prayers. Jody Hayward grew up in Brownsburg with a twin sister and desperately hoped for twins of her own, a boy and a girl. The delivery in March 1990 launched a perpetual duel for test scores, athletic achievements and preferred car seating.

On this Saturday in June 2011, Hayward is not about to give away his sister without some resistance.

He cried in the car on their first day of fourth grade, when school district policy still mandated separate classes for siblings. He evoked "ooohs" from mothers in the audience when his fifth-grade essay about his sister was read aloud. He always tried to match their class schedules in high school and chose Butler in part because she could play tennis for the Bulldogs. That choice made sense to him, once he learned the school actually fielded a Division I basketball team.

And now, she’s about to team up with Brett Hartnagel, his former doubles partner.

A few blocks from the Butler campus, at Common Ground Christian Church, Hayward holds his mother’s arm as they walk down the aisle. Knowing a parting hug would be too emotional, they slap hands and salute, like pregame introductions, drawing laughter from the audience.

During the reception, held nearby in the elegant commons of Park Tudor School, Heather and her father dance to Heartland’s "I Loved Her First." They smile and sway, then her brother steps in. They begin awkwardly, these two who always have been bonded, and now are holding on. When the music stops, Hayward won’t let go. He’s sobbing.


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His tears become contagious, among folks accustomed to watching him perform coolly in big moments. Hayward walks outside, trying to compose himself.

———

Eight months later, the scene remains indelible. A narrated tour of Hayward’s life covers four rooms in the family’s home.

In the kitchen, Jody Hayward, who works as an IT project coordinator, prepares homemade tomato soup and bread. In the dining area, Hayward’s parents, sister and brother-in-law share childhood stories. In the game room, basketball displays surround the ping-pong table and trigger more tales.

Back upstairs, in the family room, his mother serves cherry crisp dessert as his sister shows wedding photos and relives that dance. "It was as if Gordon and I were best friends again and he just didn’t want me to go, but at the same time it was like his blessing to let me go," Heather said.

Pausing after a Jazz practice one morning, Hayward reflected, "I think it was just a culmination of everything, realizing that we’re kind of growing up and she’s doing her own thing and she’s going to have her own life now. It’s just been so fast. Four years ago, we were in high school, still."

———

Hayward will spend the All-Star break dwelling on Wednesday’s defeat at Minnesota, where he missed a late free throw and let Luke Ridnour drive past him for the winning basket. He’s familiar with dramatic endings.

Four years ago, all of this was ahead of Hawyard: his thrilling finish in the Indiana Class 4A state tournament, his near-miss in the NCAA final, his up-and-down rookie year and his growth this season, while starting every game.

Brownsburg is home to some 21,000 residents, 7,000 more than when Hayward was 10. Every street sign is purple, marked with a Bulldog, the high school’s mascot. Only 18 miles from downtown Indianapolis, Brownsburg stands distinct.

Here in this town where the Connector Road, running from I-74 to Main Street, is framed by cornfields, Hayward’s parents met on a tennis court as teenagers. The sports-minded community that sent two teams to the Little League World Series currently claims two Major League Baseball pitchers, a Major League Soccer rookie and an NBA player. For years, Brownsburg athletic director Greg Hill has counseled families to savor the high-school experience, citing the remote chances of a pro career. "It’s kind of ruined my speech," Hill said.

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Brownsburg’s boys

Current major league athletes from Brownsburg High School:

Player Sport Team

Chris Estridge Soccer Vancouver Whitecaps

Gordon Hayward Basketball Utah Jazz

Lance Lynn Baseball St. Louis Cardinals

Drew Storen Baseball Washington Nationals

The fourth Gordon Hayward

Jazz forward Gordon Daniel Hayward descended from three other Gordon Haywards, each with a distinctive middle name: Gordon Bachelor (great-grandfather), Gordon Louis (grandfather) and Gordon Scott (father).



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