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Larry Bird knows a little about college kids from small schools.
Before his name was whispered with reverence in Beantown, he was the "Hick from French Lick". The AP Player of the Year. The Naismith and Wooden award winner from Indiana State University where he led his small school to a championship loss to Magic Johnson's Michigan St. Spartans.
And Bird likes Hayward, "We (Pacers) were interested, but for the young man, he's going to the right place. Everyone likes to play in their home town, I understand that, but he couldn't go to a better place (Utah)."
Little did Larry Legend know that the better place, is the place.
Hayward is known for his well-rounded basketball skills. An excellent passer and defender, Hayward has won at every level. A state championship in high school, of which he hit the game winning shot. Hayward led Butler to a championship loss to the Duke Blue Devils, nearly completing one of the greatest Cinderella runs in NCAA history.
"I'm very happy for him going to Utah and playing for Jerry Sloan," said Bird. "it couldn't be a better fit for the kid to tell you the truth. They got a quality team that's well coached and he's going to enjoy it because he's going to get a chance to play. I know Jerry. He loves guys that play hard and have talent. It's going to be a great fit for him."
Bird battled against Sloan's Jazz for 4 years before his retirement in 1994.
"I know the coach out there. I know how they are going to treat him (Hayward) and he's going to get an opportunity to play on a good team." The Jazz won 53 games last year and have been to the playoffs the last four years. "It's going to be a good fit for him."