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Late bloomer Hayes has blossomed into a force for Brother Rice WITH PHOTO GALLERY

  • Kevin Hayes didn't start playing organized basketball until he was in eighth grade, but he has developed into one of the area's top frontcourt players as a senior at Brother Rice. Patrick McIntyre/Special to The Oakland Press

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It wasn’t literally like showing up asking what this orange ball with black stripes was or why are people wearing a tank top and shorts, but this was obviously as close to a starting point as Kevin Hayes could have had with basketball.

When he was in eighth grade at Hally Middle School in Detroit, Hayes was prodded by a basketball coach who would peek into his workouts for the track team to show up one winter for basketball tryouts, probably solely based on how lithe and athletic he was.

His participation in the tryout was a little different than others though, since Hayes arrived with a blank sheet in terms of experience playing organized basketball.

He literally had none, so this was the definition of starting from scratch.

“I was nervous and I didn’t know why he wanted me of all people,” Hayes said. “I used to go and watch the practices with my friends but didn’t know why he wanted me of all people to come and try out. I knew the simple things from watching. But plays and defensive stances, I had to learn all that.”

So that chronicles the birth of Hayes as a basketball player.

Who knows when and where the end will come, but it has certainly been a rocket-fast journey so far because Hayes has all of a sudden developed into one of the better players in the Catholic League and Oakland County.

Still long and quick at 6-foot-6, 195 pounds, Hayes is now a senior at Birmingham Brother Rice who is the focus of attention for opposing defenses.

Last season as a junior, Hayes really broke out and announced his arrival by averaging 17 points and eight rebounds a game for the Warriors, showing just how far he had come since showing up as a freshman as essentially a beginner to the game.

“He could dunk it but couldn’t do anything else,” Brother Rice head coach Ed Shaffer said. “He just showed up at an open gym in the Fall and he was just another guy at an open gym. There were a couple of kids who looked really good and he was one of them. All of a sudden he started playing and he developed such a passion.”

And that is the trite, simple story of how Hayes has developed so quickly.

There are a lot of people who get frustrated at athletes who waste God-given abilities by being lazy, but even though he got a late start, Hayes certainly is doing his best to use all the physical gifts he has.

Hayes is still raw given his late start and is continuing to hone skills such as his ballhandling and jump shot, which would perfectly complement his ability to outrun and outjump people anywhere on the court with his quickness and long arms, but giving it his all certainly isn’t a deficiency.

“I have to kick him out of the gym,” Shaffer said.

Having a passion for the game, supreme athleticism and a willingness to get better are always traits college coaches are looking for, and that is why Hayes is starting to draw some attention from college programs.

Understandably, Hayes often wonders why he didn’t start playing basketball earlier and how much more attention he would be getting if he is doing what his five younger brothers are doing now thanks to his inspiration, which is playing AAU basketball in elementary school and an earlier middle school age.

“I wish I would’ve started then, but I know things will work out for me,” Hayes said. “I know this is the sport for me.”

With Hayes ready to have a big senior season, this has the potential to be a historic winter at Brother Rice, where basketball season in the past has often been that time period to kill between football season in the fall and baseball/lacrosse season in the spring.

“This is definitely the year we are going to put Brother Rice on the map,” he said. “We haven’t really had a good basketball season, but this is the year.”

Last Updated: 1/12/2015 11:06:32 AM EST

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