Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY -- Gordon Hayward hardly stopped grinning during his introduction as a member of the Utah Jazz.
A lost bag on his flight to Salt Lake City and the unfriendly response by fans when the Jazz chose Hayward ninth in the draft weren't nearly enough to discourage the forward from Butler.
"It's all come so fast. It really has," Hayward said during a news conference Friday at the Jazz's practice facility.
Wearing a new shirt and tie Hayward and his family had to pick up on their way from the airport because his bag didn't make the trip, Hayward smiled throughout the 35 minutes of questions and answers.
"I'm real excited to get here, and I know it's going to be a journey, an adjustment and a challenge. Like I said, I'm excited to work hard and play at the next level," he said.
Hayward will play in the Orlando summer league, then continue preparing for his rookie season. This has been quite a year for the 20-year-old from suburban Indianapolis, who a year ago was the reigning freshman of the year in the Horizon League.
He may smile a lot and look even younger than he is, but the Jazz feel he has the drive and talent to play in the NBA.
"When you look at his personality here and you watch him play on his court, it's a little different. It changes a little bit," general manager Kevin O'Connor said. "I don't think you saw him grinning a lot on the court."
No, but he definitely was happy. Hayward and the Bulldogs came up a 3-pointer shy of winning a national title in a run through the NCAA tournament that included two wins in Salt Lake City in the regionals.
Hayward returned to Utah to work out for the Jazz and backed up what the scouts had seen on tape and in an interview at the NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago.
Fans berated O'Connor with boos and thumbs-down gestures when he stepped to the podium after a season ticket-holder announced Hayward was the pick. And it only got louder when O'Connor suggested the fans should see how Hayward turns out before judging.
Hayward clearly wasn't the popular choice fans thought could take Utah from a playoff team to one that could contend in the Western Conference.
"I think once they see what kind of worker I am and kind of player I am, hopefully when I get on the court I can change some of their opinions," he said.
O'Connor was candid after the pick, saying the Jazz tried to move up and were hoping to land somebody a little bit bigger than the 6-foot-8, 207-pound Hayward, but the choices were limited after eight other teams made their selections.
"I think the draft went like we had it. We expected some of those guys that we really liked early to go early. That's just part of the nature," O'Connor said. "We explained to him that the frustration was I think they expected us to take a big guy. That's all part of it. But we also told him that you go out and play like we think you're capable of playing, there won't be any more issues."
The Jazz don't consider Hayward a leftover by any means. He can shoot, has a knack for passing and has been trying to add muscle to his gangly frame.
And a well-mannered, smart kid from the Midwest seems a natural fit for Jerry Sloan, whose coaching tenure in Utah began before Hayward was born.
"I think he understands basketball. He sees things in the game sometimes before other people see it," Sloan said after the draft Thursday. "He has the ability to pass the ball. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor. I just really hope he is who we think he is and does those things."
The Jazz also introduced second-round pick Jeremy Evans, of Western Kentucky University, in Friday's press conference.
Evans said he is excited for the opportunity to make a Jazz roster and show off his explosive athletic ability.
"Many people out there just said I wasn't gonna make it or anything just because of my size," Evans said. "I believe I have to put it upon myself to prove to them that I can do this, and just to show them that it doesn't matter how big you are. As long as you work at it, you can do it."
Story compiled with contributions from AP sports writer Doug Alden and KSL's Jeremiah Jensen.