Gordon Hayward came this close to going down as the biggest hero in NCAA Tournament history. There's not sense in rehashing all the details, we've all seen it, we've all heard the reactions, it just wasn't supposed to play out with Butler winning a national championship last season. Even so, the current Utah Jazz rookie will undoubtedly be remembered for his leading role in one of the greatest March Madness runs of all time.
Now that the Bulldogs are back for another go-around Hayward is reliving last year all over again - not necessarily by choice - and has the unique opportunity to watch something he lived from the perspective of a fan this time through. Mid-Major Madness had the chance to talk with Hayward for a few minutes to talk about everything from last year's national championship, adjusting to life in the NBA and his new promotional work with Subway. Follow along after the jump to here what the Jazz rookie had to say.
How much have you kept in touch with your former teammates from Butler during the season and more recently during their Final Four run?
Those guys are some of my best friends, I spent two years with them and I'm just really excited for them. I talked with them a lot during the season but not even just about basketball, about everything. I'm really excited for them and I know they're going to do well.
How much does the final shot against Duke come up in your day-to-day life?
It gets brought up a lot just by the media or fans who ask about it. It's tough to think how it ended just because I wanted to win so bad for the fans and for Butler, but it does still get brought up a lot.
Do you have any regrets that you left school early, especially now that Butler is back in the Final Four?
There are no regrets on my end, I'm definitely happy with my decision, I'm very blessed to be here in Utah. It would have been great to go back and play there again, but I'm really excited for those guys and I'm enjoying watching it all as a fan now.
I have yet to talk to those guys about that yet.
Where has your game grown the most since you were drafted in June?
I think my confidence has been a lot better. When you get on the court more often. get more minutes, you just get comfortable and your confidence picks up. At first it was hard because I came in not necessarily knowing what to do all the time, but as I've gotten more comfortable things have gotten better.
What was the biggest adjustment you had to make initially to transition to the pro game?
It was definitely mental. When you go from being the star on your team to being a guy playing with a bunch of NBA All-Stars, making that change from always having the ball in your hands to not having the ball, it is tough mentally at first, it's an adjustment for sure.
What are some of the things you've taken away from the veterans you play with?
They told me it's going to take time, it's a different game. They stressed to me to control the things I can control and that's it, don't get down about things.
What has it been like dealing with all of the distractions of head coach Jerry Sloan's resignation and Deron Williams being traded to New Jersey?
It opened up my eyes to the fact that the NBA is a business. As a basketball player you can only control what you do, which is showing up every single day trying to get better as a player. As a professional it's stuff that you have to deal with and just keep trudging along.
I understand you're currently doing some work with Subway, can you talk about that a little bit?
This year Subway and I put our support with the 5-seeds in the NCAA Tournament and if one of them was to win I would have bought 5,555 of March's featured footlong - which is the meatball pepperoni sub - for 5,555 fans. Unfortunately no 5-seed was able to do that so I don't have to buy them. Moving forward to April though there's a new featured footlong which is the double bacon egg and cheese, so that's a great way to start your morning off with Subway.