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Hayward sharpens shooting for draft

He'd like to be drafted by Pacers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 - 4:36 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — Gordon Hayward didn't flinch, rarely missed. In this snap-shot workout moment for the Indiana Pacers, his 11th and final chance to show the substance to his hype, the former Butler standout was a three-point sharpshooter.

What does it mean for Thursday's NBA draft prospects?

“I've got no clue,” he said.

Hayward is projected as a lottery pick, which goes to the 14 selections. The average of all the major mock drafts has him going No. 8 to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Pacers draft 10th.

“It would be a dream come true to play for the Pacers,” he said. “It's close to home, close to family and friends.

“People might say there would be pressure there. There was pressure at Butler. I don't see that as a negative. Any team that picks me would put a smile on my face. I'd be happy to play for anyone.”

Pacers president Larry Bird and coach Jim O'Brien were among those giving Hayward his last pre-NBA draft examine Monday afternoon. In the final minutes he hit 21-of-30 three-point attempts from a variety of spots at the Conseco Fieldhouse practice court.

“There's pressure when you do these things,” Hayward said. “You look on the sidelines and there's Larry Bird.”

The 6-9, 207-pound Hayward spent nearly 90 minutes Monday working out with fellow draft hopefuls Manny Harris of Michigan, Stanley Robinson of Connecticut, James Anderson of Oklahoma State, Patrick Sullivan of Southeastern Louisiana and Elijah Millsap of Alabama-Birmingham. In this workout, as in all the others for Hayward, the No. 1 focus was his three-point shooting.

As a Butler freshman, he shot 44.8 percent from three-point range (69-for-154). Last season, it was 29.4 percent (47-for-160).

Yes, NBA scouts noticed.

“When they see you drop from 44 percent to 29 percent, it's a big issue,” Hayward said. “Everyone asked me about it. They know you can play and score. They've watched a lot of film. The biggest key is to compete and play hard. They want to see if you can defend and listen to what they're saying and try to do what they want you to do.”

Why the drop in three-point accuracy? Was it because teams defended him harder on the perimeter or a flaw in his technique or just an off year?

“A lot of it was confidence,” he said. “I started aiming instead of shooting. I tried to do other things and I lost confidence. I went back to the gym and it got back up.”

By the end of Monday's workout, Hayward was shooting the best of anyone.

“My shot has improved,” he said. “That's just from the last month being in the gym every day. My confidence has gotten back up. Obviously my shooting needs to improve next year.”

Hayward's whirlwind workout tour included stops at Golden State and Utah. He'll be with friends and family in New York City for Thursday's draft.

“This makes you grow up fast,” he said. “You're on your own. You have to travel by yourself.

“It's been an enjoyable experience. You get to go to all these great cities, but you don't see much of them. Basically it's the airport, the hotel and the arena.”

At least initially, Hayward will lack the size and strength to play inside, which is fine with him.

“I see myself on the perimeter (in the NBA),” he said. “I see myself as a wing player. That's what I've always been. That's where I'm most comfortable.

“The biggest adjustment for me will be the strength department, keeping your balance when you're getting hit. All these guys are older and stronger.”

Hayward said he has no regrets about leaving Butler after just two seasons.

“I don't second-guess myself about that,” he said.

No senior is projected among the top 14 picks. However, four freshmen and five sophomores are likely lottery picks. Kentucky freshman John Wall figures to go to Washington as the No. 1 pick. Ohio State junior Evan Turner is the likely No. 2 pick for Philadelphia. Georgia Tech freshman Derrick Favors looks like the No. 3 pick for the New Jersey Nets. Strong workouts could elevate Hayward into the top five.

What was the biggest thing he learned in the pre-draft process?

“That I'm a competitor. All these guys are great players or they wouldn't be at these workouts. At times you'll get beat. It made me angry every time somebody scored on me. I want to do whatever I can to be the best.”