By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Kentucky basketball star Chuck Hayes was in Atlanta recently for the McDonald’s All-American Game. He’s now a scout for the Houston Rockets after spending last season in the same role with the Denver Nuggets.
Hayes said he was “evaluating talent and checking out some of the new faces” for the next college basketball season. But he sees a big difference in today’s players than when he was the same age.
“I was not this athletic. I was not this skilled. Today’s athletes are a special group coming up,” said Hayes. “There are no wide bodies any more. It is a long, athletic, lengthy, jumping group out here. I couldn’t hang with them.
“But I am having fun doing this. This is my second year doing this and I am enjoying my job.”
He had a brilliant career at Kentucky playing for Tubby Smith and is in the UK Athletics Hall of Fame.
Hayes is still Kentucky proud, too. He wore his UK Final Four hat from three years ago when he was sitting with other NBA scouts watching the nation’s elite high school players practice.
“I watch UK all the time. I am still a fan through and through. I bleed blue. The guys (at UK) know they have my full support,” Hayes said. “I was wearing this (hat) all tournament hoping it would bring us some good luck but obviously we got cut short (with a loss to Kansas State). I am just letting everybody know what school I represent, and I will always be doing that.”
Hayes was in Lexington in February when Kentucky played Mississippi. He got a chance then to see coach John Calipari and assistant coach Kenny Payne.
“Just stopping by and paying my respects to everyone. Just making sure they all know I still bleed blue,” he said.
Hayes looked fit and trim enough to play with those he was scouting, a thought that made him laugh.
“I am not in that kind of shape,” he said. “But I will say this. I am eating better now that I am not playing than when I did. That’s not the way it usually works, but that’s what has happened for me.”