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14 Butler Bulldogs

If Gordon Hayward plays like a guard trapped in a forward's body, it's because he is. Hayward wasn't projected to be taller than 6'2", so his father, Gordon Sr., who coached him until high school, had his son develop his ballhandling skills and outside shooting on the court he painted on the family's driveway. Gordon Jr. notes that he spent much of his time shooting from behind the arc, or thereabouts, because the three-point line was "a little slanted." Then he shot up, sprouting from 5'10" as a freshman at Brownsburg (Ind.) High to 6'8" as a senior. "I grew," he says, "and my guard skills came with me."

Hayward has added another inch in the last year, and his team has grown along with him. The Bulldogs—who were picked to finish fifth in the Horizon League last year after the departure of four starters—went 26--6 his freshman season and reached the NCAA tournament. Now the starting five are back, including Hayward, who was named the league's top rookie, and 6'8" junior forward Matt Howard, the conference's reigning player of the year.

All Hayward's long-range bombing on that banked blacktop back home has paid off. After shooting 44.8% from beyond the three-point line as a freshman—as well as leading the Bulldogs in minutes (32.7) and steals (48)—Hayward was selected (along with guard Shelvin Mack) to the U.S.'s under-19 team this summer. He averaged 10.0 points and 5.7 rebounds for Team USA, which won the gold medal at the FIBA World Championships in New Zealand, and was named to the all-tournament team.

Since March 2008, when Hayward corralled a loose ball and hit a buzzer beater that lifted Brownsburg to the Class 4A state title, his teams have gone 35--6. "He has exceptional savvy and understanding of the game," says Butler coach Brad Stevens. "He consistently makes the right play."

Hayward may finally be done growing, but he and his team should reach new heights.



Brad Stevens (3rd year)

2008--09 record



15--3 (1st)

NCAA tournament

First round


Returning starter


Nov. 14 Davidson

Nov. 18 at Northwestern

Nov. 21 at Evansville

Nov. 26 Minnesota*

Nov. 27 UCLA or Portland*

Dec. 2 at Ball State

Dec. 5 Valparaiso

Dec. 8 Georgetown†

Dec. 12 Ohio State

Dec. 19 Xavier

Dec. 22 at UAB

Dec. 31 Green Bay

Jan. 2 Milwaukee

Jan. 8 at Wright State

Jan. 10 at Detroit

Jan. 14 Cleveland State

Jan. 16 Youngstown State

Jan. 21 at Loyola (Ill.)

Jan. 23 at Illinois-Chicago

Jan. 29 at Green Bay

Jan. 31 at Milwaukee

Feb. 4 Detroit

Feb. 6 Wright State

Feb. 8 Loyola (Ill.)

Feb. 11 at Youngstown State

Feb. 13 at Cleveland State

Feb. 17 Illinois-Chicago

Feb. 26 Valparaiso

*76 Classic in Anaheim (championship game on Nov. 29)

†in New York City


Butler's out-of-conference slate is key to its ensuring an at-large bid, should there be a repeat of last year's upset loss to Cleveland State in the Horizon tournament. Ohio State is the highest ranked of the Bulldogs' three top 25 foes, so a win at home would go at the top of Butler's NCAA résumé.

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SHAWN VANZANT Butler's athletic sixth man gave Milwaukee the bum's rush when he delivered a career-high 20 points in their Horizon matchup last January.



GORDON HAYWARD The sharpshooting sophomore forward and his mid-major team have grown into the role of contender.