Is there anyone more inclined to speak on the rise of the Bulldog other than a guy who used to be one? Gordon Hayward helped build Butler, or at least the part of the school that we know something about. And while he was in the middle of that process last year, this year, he’s been at the center of a crushed foundation. No more Deron Williams and no more Jerry Sloan in Utah. But don’t fret too much Jazz fans. Hayward is getting better, and plans to be a lot better next season.
Here, Hayward dishes on a number of things, not just his former college team’s chances this weekend in the Final Four. He talks video games, his favorite sandwiches, the best vacation spots and even why he loves cruises so much.
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Dime: I’ve got to ask you about Butler. Did you see this coming? Did anyone see this coming?
Gordon Hayward: I knew that they had potential going in. They had been playing really well going into the tournament. The fact that we came up so close last year and we almost had everyone back, I knew that they were really hungry for it. And you can’t teach experience, so that was really good for them.
Dime: Do you think that hunger is the main reason why they’ve gotten back to the Final Four?
GH: I think every team in the NCAA Tournament has that hunger. They want to win the whole thing. But like I said, I think that experience factor and the fact that they have really great senior leaders in Matt Howard and Shawn Vanzant and Zach Hahn who’ve been through it all. I think those two things are key for them.
Dime: Definitely. As for you, you guys have gone through a lot of changes this season. What’s been the hardest part for you?
GH: Well, I think the hardest part is just realizing that the NBA is a business and you have to make those moves sometimes in order to be successful. Even though there was a whirlwind of things happening, you still have to be professional, turn that switch on and go out there and play basketball through all of the chaos and turmoil. It’s been a roller coaster of a season a little bit, but at the same time I’m still getting to play the game that I love as a job and that’s really cool.
Dime: Now that you’re getting more minutes as the season goes along, what’s that been like? As a rookie, what are some of the tricks you’ve been learning?
GH: Well, it was difficult for me at first just because you’re not getting those minutes that you’re used to. You go from a place where you are kind of the man and a star to the NBA where everyone was the man and everyone was a star where they came from and everyone can play. So sometimes you have to learn from the sideline and that was difficult at first, but being able to get out there and play, there’s nothing more valuable than that as far as for your comfort and confidence. So to get out there and play, it’s been great. I think that some things you learn while you’re out there playing, the way that the game works and how it is a little different from college, especially defensively with what you can do as far as fouling and what not. It’s just a different game and you can’t be as physical out on the perimeter. That’s just something that I’ve had to learn how to adjust to and just doing that has been good for me.
Dime: Yeah, along with that, who do you think has been the toughest guy for you to guard?
GH: Toughest guy for me to guard…man, I’ve guarded some great players. I think I guarded Kobe Bryant a little bit and then Kevin Durant. I had to guard him a little bit as well and both those guys can fill it up, as well as ‘Melo. ‘Melo, I think he had me…I think I had five fouls in like seven minutes so that was a tough game for me.
Dime: Definitely. To get back to you, tell me how you got connected with Subway?
GH: Well, today is the last day in March so it’s the last day for everyone to buy the meatball pepperoni sub for $5. In March, the meatball pepperoni was the feature for the month. I almost had to buy 5,555 of them if one of the five seeds was to win. Of course, they came up short. Arizona was close to getting to the Final Four but came a little short. But anyways, tomorrow is obviously the first day in April and there will be a new feature footlong. The new one is the double bacon egg and cheese. So that’s a great way to start your morning off by having one of those sandwiches. It’s available all day as well so all day and all April you can go get that for $5. It’s another great addition to their $5 favorites.
Dime: What’s your favorite sub from there?
GH: My favorite sub…I go to Subway to eat almost every game day and I usually get turkey on white with provolone cheese. So it’s kind of simple, but that’s what I like.
Dime: As far as off the court stuff, I saw on Twitter that you were playing some Halo. What kind of hobbies do you get into?
GH: Um, I play a lot of video games and I watch a lot of movies as well. I like going to the movies. When I go home for the summer, I don’t have a table here, but I’m big into ping-pong and foosball and stuff like that. I have a table at my house at home. I like little games like that. I’m a competitive person so I like to compete off the court as well.
Dime: What kind of video games do you play?
GH: Um, I really like first-person shooter games. Halo is my favorite franchise so I’m real big into that. I will play Call of Duty and all of those types of games as well so those are the games that I enjoy playing the most.
Dime: You got any cool plans for the summer?
GH: I think I’m going to take a little break. It’s been about two-and-a-half, three years since I had a break from basketball. I’ve been going non-stop since after high school so take a little break from basketball and maybe go on a cruise or something like that. I think that would be pretty cool.
Dime: What are some of the places that you would really want to visit?
GH: Um, good question. I’ve been lucky enough to go to a lot of different places. Basketball has taken me to Italy and to New Zealand. I’ve gone on cruises before, but cruises to me are the best because it’s unlimited food. It’s free food all the time whenever you want it so I just love that. (laughs) I just order it and sit there like ‘Damn.’ I’m definitely looking forward to some of that.
Dime: As for right now with the rest of the season, what are some of the things the coaches are stressing to you to work on?
GH: I think everything needs to improve. You’re at a different level. You just have to sharpen all of your tools. One thing that I need to get better at, one thing that I need to do is kind of get a more aggressive mindset and look to shoot a little bit more and create a little bit more. That’s something that I’m working on.
Dime: When you got drafted to Utah, you guys already had leaders there in Coach Sloan and Deron Williams. Now that those guys are gone, what do you think the direction of the franchise is and what do you think your role is in that?
GH: I think right now we are just trying to win ballgames. It is difficult when you lose a guy like Coach Sloan and D-Will. I think going into it, you think those are staples in the Jazz organization. But I think it shows that no one is a staple and anything can happen. For me, I am trying to control what I can control and that’s going in every single day and getting some extra shots up, getting a lift in and trying to get better as a player.
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