This time a year ago, Gordon Hayward was quickly becoming a household name. The 6'9" combo guard/forward that had quietly flown under America's radar for much of the year had helped the scrappy lil Horizon League champs Butler Bulldogs reach The Big Dance as a respectable #5 seed. His team opened up with a solid wins over UTEP squeaked by (Bill) Murray State, leading to a glorious entry into NCAA Tournament's equivalent of the Senior Prom known as the Sweet 16. While impressive, most people wrote Hayward and Butler off, as they now had to face and upend #1 seed Syracuse in order to move on. But of course, like any darling little Cinderella, Butler put on their glass slippers and promptly put away the Orange 63-59 led by Gordon Hayward and his 17 points. Next up was #2 seed Kansas State. Yet again, Hayward produced a huge night with 22 points and 8 rebounds, to help Butler reach the Final Four. It was at this point that Gordon Hayward mania began to sweep the nation. All across the country, people were clamoring for his interview and Jay Bilas was knocking on his door, pining to the be the first in line to give him a celebratory beej. Analysts everywhere began to have Hayward shooting up their draft boards despite his athleticism and lack of a true position (Can't say I've heard of too many 6'9" shooting guards making it in the NBA). In miraculous fashion, Hayward again led the charge against Tom Izzo and Michigan State to pull out yet another victory for a date with destiny and the only thing on God's green Earth hated more than Snooki: The Duke Blue Devils. In the championship game, Hayward and Butler managed to keep it close and Hayward even got off a last second heave for the win that managed to hit iron but rim out. It was a truly great game, one of the best I have seen as far as NCAA tournament titles go.
There were a few moments of heartache and sadness after the loss, but Gordon's eyes quickly turned to dollar $igns as he immediately turned his eyes toward the NBA draft to capitalize on his teams tremendous NCAA Tournament run. I can almost remember the exact words of Gordon's father as he decided he would forgo his last years of eligibility and enter the NBA draft: "What's he supposed to do? Make it back to the finals with this team and make that last shot and win the tournament again? He has nothing left to prove here. I know he's ready". Gordon ended up being chosen by the Utah Jazz (Biggest No Brainer in the History of Mankind) with the 9th overall pick. Hey Gordon, might be nice to try and ask your Dad to not throw the rest of the team under the bus next time? They might just, oh I don't know, make it ALLLLL the way back to the Final Four and possibly win the National Championship without your punk ass. There is a player like this in every single NCAA tournament. That kid that does very well throughout much of the year, often gets a little to moderate amount of hype, but then puts on the afterburners as soon as the big lights come up. He starts to get noticed by a few scouts and all of a sudden, a fringe first round pick rockets his way into the lottery based on a sample size smaller than Paris Hilton's IQ. The list of these types of players is endless. Last year it was Gordon Hayward and Luke Babbitt, a few years back it was Josh McRoberts, and others include Pervis Elllison, Adam Morrison, Ed O'Bannon. These are all players that all decided to forego their reaming year(s) of eligibility, thanks in large part to stellar performances in the tournament. This year, I feel like Kemba Walker is poised to do just the same after his season is over at UConn. I do not mean to take anything away from any of the players I have mentioned about. I am merely stating that I think there is a lot to be said for players spending their full four years in college if they aren't a one and done NBA superstar like Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, or John Wall.
There is always growth and potential, and the best place for the to take place is in college where you can be the Big Man on Campus. Otherwise, you might end up like Gordon Hayward averaging 4 ppg in garbage minutes with the Utah Jazz while spending your free time pulling all the splinters out of your ass that you have managed to garner by riding the pine. Had Gordon decided to come back for his senior season, he could have developed his game ever further and would likely be leading the charge again with Shelvin Mack and the rest of the Bulldogs and improving his draft stock even further. Obviously, this is all speculative, but the likelihood of Gordon some sort of career threatening injury or down season that would have hurt his likelihood of being mid-first round draft pick are rather slim. In fact, Hayward would likely have been drafted even HIGHER in this class considering how weak it is from top to bottom. Think he'd rather be back with his teams in Indianapolis waiting for that sweet ride down to Houston for another shot at the National Championship? I am willing to wager the answers would be a resounding "Yes". Poor, poor Gordon.