From a small city to his adventures in the NBA Chuck Hayes details what it took to take his game from a small Modesto high school to the most popular basketball league in the world.

“Find your niche and be impactful”

Full Interview:

The Modesto Monster

Born June 11, 1983 in San Leandro, California Hayes was raised by his parents Charles and Tracey Hayes. At a young age Hayes was involved in sports, Hayes played football, basketball, and baseball. Baseball was his first love and basketball was his cousin's favorite, he found his love for the game through his cousin. Hayes recalls the moment in eighth grade, “We played in a tournament in Reno Memorial Day Weekend, I probably had one of the best Grassroots Tournaments I had in my entire life at such a young age.”

Hayes didn’t grow up with a personal trainer working with him every day, instead Hayes and his father would show up at local parks or the Salvation Army to play against grown men and play for six to eight hours. Hayes was inspired by his family but looked up to some of the local guys in Modesto. Hayes in elementary and middle school looked up to the Modesto basketball players watching them, wanting to be as good as them and ultimately outdo them.

In eighth grade Hayes was afraid to attend Modesto Christian High School, the team had just won the division five state championship with one junior and four freshmen. Hayes said to himself, “I'm not as good as them, I don't know if we can win state, I didn’t want to go there, they went undefeated … I didn’t want to play with the team that just went undefeated and we lose because of me.” In his freshman year the guys he went to school with pushed him every day, they always motivated him because they saw something in him. As a senior Hayes was named a Parade All-American and led Modesto Christian to a Nor-Cal State Championship win over Jesuit.
In the fall of 2000 Hayes committed to The University of Kentucky.

The Wildcat Winner

As a senior Hayes took four college visits, St. Louis University, University of Texas El Paso, Kansas, and University of Kentucky. His final decision was between Kansas and Kentucky but when he visited Kansas they had different plans with how they would use Hayes and his role with the team. When he visited Kentucky and talked to the staff they were ecstatic to have his talent and Hayes felt that Kentucky was for him.

When Hayes committed to Kentucky he predicted Tayshaun Prince and Keith Bogans would be heading into the draft. Prince and Bogans didn’t enter the draft and Hayes joined one of the top college basketball teams in the nation. Heading into the season he told himself, ‘I got to compete, I got to compete, I got to work hard, I can’t get tired.” Hayes was a Parade All-American but he realized his job wasn’t done yet. College was a whole different level and he had to prove himself. Hayes loved college because of the love Kentucky fans showed him, he enjoyed learning about all different types of people across the country. Kentucky is known as the top of the South and Hayes enjoyed learning from people from Chicago, Atlanta, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Cincinnati while in college.

In four years at Kentucky Hayes had an 81% win percentage and totaled 109 wins. Hayes was willing to give it his all every time he stepped onto the court. He played in the elite eight twice and was only a shot away from making his first Final Four in a double overtime game against Michigan State. Hayes believed that in his sophomore and junior year the Kentucky team was good enough to win a national championship but fell short both times.

Hayes finished first in offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, and first in defensive win shares during his four years at Kentucky. After possibly being one of the most impactful players in Kentucky Wildcats history in 2005 Hayes’s next step was to prove his worth to an NBA team.

An NBA Dynamo

In his senior year Hayes averaged 10.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assist, and 1.8 steals per game but was not selected by one of the 30 teams on draft night. Hayes began his professional career playing with the D-league Albuquerque Thunderbirds where he averaged 10.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game in just 15 games.

Hayes’s ability to grab rebounds and guard multiple positions piqued the interest of the Houston Rockets. On January 18, 2006 Hayes signed a 10-day contract with the team. In just his second game Hayes recorded a triple-double against the Chicago Bulls and opened up the front office's eyes to offer him a contract through the end of the season.

At the time Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy told Hayes his job was to “cover for Yao Ming and cover for Tracy McGrady.” Hayes first thought was, “I didn’t want to go down to the minor again, I didn’t want to go to Europe, I did whatever I had to do to stick, to be impactful.” Over the next few years Hayes became a fan favorite in Houston and even recorded a triple-double. According to Yahoo Sports, Hayes has the second least assist per game of any player to ever record a triple double, against all odds Hayes was able to dish out 11 assists (career high) including 13 points and 14 rebounds.

In 2011 Hayes signed in Sacramento, a little over an hour away from his hometown. In Sacramento Hayes came off the bench for the most part giving the Kings tough perimeter and paint defense. In the middle of the 2013-2014 season Hayes was traded to the Toronto Raptors where he saw few minutes. During the 2015-2016 season Hayes signed with the Rockets and played two games in order to retire with the team that gave him his first shot.

Hayes was known for his ability to guard almost every position, his odd free-throw shooting form, and his willingness to give his blood, sweat, and tears while playing.

What it Takes

From a small town in California Hayes had to prove himself from day one. In high school he and his dad went out and played basketball for hours, in college he tried to outwork everyone around him, and in the NBA Hayes worked to be impactful every time he stepped out on the court.

Hayes wasn’t born the most athletic person ever. Instead, he made sure no one outworked him, he watched as much film as possible, and did whatever his coach told him to do.

Hayes references the story of his former teammate Kyle Lowry. Today we know Lowry as a NBA champion but his story wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Kyle Lowry was drafted in 2006 by the Memphis Grizzlies but broke his wrist ten games into the season. The next year the Grizzlies drafted Mike Conley to be the point guard of the future, Lowry was traded to Houston to play behind Aaron Brooks. Aaron Brooks had just been awarded the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, Lowry wasn’t put in a successful position and Houston decided to trade him to Toronto for Jeremy Lin. Through hard work and perseverance Lowry has now set himself up for a shot at the Basketball Hall of Fame .

Hayes said, “If this is really what you want to do you have got to work at it every day, shooting, conditioning, whatever it is.” Hayes wasn’t the tallest, most athletic, or one of the fastest guys but he wasn’t going to let anyone out hustle him. Hayes tells his son Dorian Hayes who is headed to high school next year, “When you go into high school you’ve got to start all over again, high school to college you’ve got to prove yourself again … you got to prove yourself.”

The road to becoming a beloved college and NBA player is not easy; are you willing to put in the hours in the gym and the hours of watching film in order to play collegiate basketball and maybe even one day in the NBA?

Do You Have What it Takes?