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PREP BASKETBALL * STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS

Outside Job

Modesto Christian's Hayes Rounded Out His Game in Off-Season

March 16, 2001|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Chuck Hayes didn't need a jumper. His devastating inside game was already making Modesto Christian a must-see stop for college coaches Roy Williams, Tubby Smith and Steve Lavin.

But he didn't want to be defined by staggering rebounding numbers and low-post moves. So he spent the summer trying to become a better player outside.

"It took a lot of repetition," said Hayes, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound senior at Modesto Christian. "I spent a lot of time working on shooting off the dribble. Before, I was pretty much an inside guy. Now, I'm a lot more versatile. It's starting to pay off for me in the playoffs."

Is it ever.

Hayes' inside-outside game has carried the Crusaders into the state Division I title game Saturday against Mater Dei. In a 90-74 victory over San Jose Andrew Hill in the Northern California Regional semifinals, Hayes scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. In the 72-53 victory over Concord De La Salle in the regional final last Saturday, he had 26 points and 18 rebounds.

For the season, Hayes is averaging 25 points and 18 rebounds.

"He's on a mission this year," Modesto Christian Coach Gary Porter said. "Whatever we need, he gives us. He is the leader. When we're struggling, he'll just take it upon himself and take over the game."

Now that Hayes has added another dimension, he can hardly wait to show it off Saturday night, beginning at 8, in Sacramento's Arco Arena.

"I'm pretty sure they'll double-team me inside," said Hayes, who is shooting 46% from three-point range. "But if they do that, I'll just take it outside. If they leave me, they'll pay."

Porter said it will be interesting to see how Mater Dei deals with Hayes.

"He'll out-quick the big boy [Jamal Sampson] without a doubt," Porter said. "But they've got enough good athletes where they can switch guys around on him."

Said Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight: "Their five [starters] are pretty good, so it would be difficult to double-team [Hayes]. I think you just hope that he doesn't have as good a game [as he did in the Northern Regional final] and you hope your team defense can do enough.

"He's going to be a handful."

Whatever Mater Dei does defensively, Porter expects Hayes to be able to adjust.

"He'll figure out what he needs to do," Porter said. "From last year to this year, he decided he needed to work on his outside shot. He is so disciplined and such a hard worker."

The hard work was rewarded in October, when Hayes accepted a scholarship offer from Smith and signed with Kentucky.

Had he considered playing college football, there were more than a few coaches willing to recruit him as a tight end. After an all-state junior season as a wide receiver, Hayes received letters from UCLA, Fresno State and Michigan State.

"He's got such strong hands and that's what makes him such a good wide receiver," Porter said. "Once he gets his hands on it, he's not going to let it go."

But football only got in the way of basketball. So he scrapped it after his junior year. Hayes, who has averaged 25 points a game over his four-year career, wanted his senior season on the court to be special. So special that he led his teammates into believing that a school with 270 kids could make the leap from Division IV to Division I.

"They wanted some respect," Porter said. "We're from a small town and they wanted to prove to people they could play."

Saturday night, they will get the chance.

"I can't wait for this game," Hayes said. "It's the last game of my high school career. I'm sure Mater Dei doesn't know much about a little team from Modesto. But I have a feeling we'll earn their respect."

*

Staff writer Ben Bolch contributed to this story.

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