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Jazz’s Gordon Hayward: The brother from Brownsburg
NBA » Second-year Utah forward’s roots are thick, strong in Indiana.

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Hayward beat those odds. He also validated his commitment to real-time, strategic video gaming, which his father tried to limit. Hayward argued that some StarCraft II devotees make money. His father, a software engineer, responded, "It’s not going to be you, son." So, of course, Hayward recalled those words last summer when he signed an endorsement deal for video gaming.

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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In Brownsburg, Hayward developed his athletic talent without any sense of entitlement. "More than anything, when you’re from a small town, you grow up with good balance in life," said NBA veteran Kyle Korver, of Pella, Iowa. "You play all the sports, and everybody knows you, and you know everybody. You’re just Gordon. You’re Kyle."

Hayward competed in soccer and baseball and also tried football, often changing uniforms in the family van between venues. But the boy was raised on Brandywine Court — the cul-de-sac where the family’s brick home was built the year he was born — and his career would play out on courts. Famously, he almost went full-time in tennis after his freshman year of high school, when he stood 5-foot-11 and had yet to play for the varsity.

His mother somehow persuaded the kid who never likes to lose a debate to give basketball another year. Having developed a guard’s skills, he kept that ability as he grew to 6-4 as a sophomore, 6-7 as a junior and 6-8 as a senior.

The transformation was "like a kid discovered superpowers," coach Joshua Kendrick said.


Partly because he liked to pass, Hayward never became a huge scorer in high school. The No. 9 pick in the 2010 NBA draft is not among the nine players in Brownsburg history with 1,000-plus career points (he finished with 927 in 77 games), although he ranks high in assists, rebounds and steals.

In the final games of Hayward’s high-school and college careers, Kendrick and Butler’s Brad Stevens basically said, "Get the ball to Gordon." The first time his teammates heard those instructions from a coach, Hayward was 4, shooting at 6-foot rims at Garfield Park in Indianapolis.

As a Brownsburg senior, playing in the NBA arena now called Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hayward was covered on the designed inbounds play with 2.1 seconds remaining. But he grabbed a loose ball in the lane and scored to give the Bulldogs their first state championship, 40-39 over Marion.

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story continues below

Stevens once told the Brownsburg staff that Hayward could become Butler’s first NBA product in nearly 60 years. Stevens’ forecast came true far sooner than he could have known.

After his freshman year, Hayward helped the U.S. team win the U-19 world championship in New Zealand. He already was a top NBA prospect, and Butler was about to become a national phenomenon.

Supported by veteran teammates and the other five members of his tightly bonded recruiting class, Hayward led the Bulldogs through the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed, continually pulling out close games. Butler came to EnergySolutions Arena for the West Regional, beating Syracuse in the Sweet 16 and Kansas State in the Elite Eight. On the floor where Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor three months later would stand in defense of drafting him, Hayward’s NBA future instantly became clear to Stevens.

Hayward dribbled the ball between his legs, stepped back and hit a 3-pointer over Kansas State’s Curtis Kelly. "We’d better go to the Final Four," Stevens told his assistants, "because he’s gone."

Two years and six blocks removed from the state title game, Hayward had two chances to beat Duke in the NCAA championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. His baseline fadeaway shot looked good but sailed long. That haunts him more than the shot everyone else remembers, the buzzer-beating halfcourt attempt that banked off the rim, denying the upstart Bulldogs the biggest breakthrough in modern collegiate sports.

"It’s still something that me and him talk about every once in a while — what if that would have gone in, how things would be different," said Butler’s Garrett Butcher, Hayward’s roommate for two years.


Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler’s historical landmark, showcases side-by-side National Finalist banners — one earned with Hayward, the other without him. Of those six freshmen in Hayward’s class, four remain at Butler. Guard Shelvin Mack, now with the Washington Wizards, left school after last April’s title-game defeat. The Bulldogs (18-12) have won five straight games.

Heather will graduate from Butler with a degree in chemistry in May, four years after triumphantly edging her brother in class ranking (No. 6 among 472 students). She’ll forever declare herself the "oldest and smartest" twin.

In early February, when the Jazz visited Indianapolis, several dozen hometown fans received access to a brief postgame meeting with Hayward. With his hair wet, dressed in basketball shoes and a sport jacket, he took a microphone and thanked them, then answered five questions about basketball and video games before boarding the team bus.

The next day, the NBA named him a Rising Star. Here in Indiana, folks already knew that.

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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).

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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