Chuck Hayes, life in the NBA Part 1 of 5

KSR contributor Steve Hunt talks to former UK Standout about his days at Kentucky and life in the NBA in this 5-part series. Part 1 is free to all subscribers. Parts 2-5 will be printed later this week for our premium subscribers. It's a great time to sign up for our free trial.

It shouldn't be a shock to anyone who follows Kentucky basketball that ex-Wildcat Chuck Hayes, now in his fourth season with the NBA's Houston Rockets, has a well-deserved reputation as the best defender on his team. After all, not only did Hayes play at UK, a school well-known for preaching the merits of playing great defense, but the California native also honed his trade under Tubby Smith, a proven disciple of the defense-first philosophy.

For a guy who wasn't drafted, Hayes has found his niche in the Bayou City. He spent part of the 2005 season in the NBA Developmental League, where he played 14 games for Albuquerque before the Rockets gave him the call he had been waiting for. He endured a coaching change this offseason but with defense often at a premium in the NBA, Hayes has a bright future under new head coach Rick Adelman. Kentucky Sports Report recently caught up with him in Dallas and here's what Hayes had to say.

"I had a great time," Hayes said when asked to sum up his years at Kentucky. "It was a great four years. I think I made the best choice that I could have possibly made by choosing UK. I miss it but now I go back and now I'm the alum and the old guy. It's good though."

Hayes spent all four years playing for Smith, someone to whom he feels a huge debt of gratitude for helping him learn the nuances of becoming a better defender.

"I thank him as much as I can whenever I can," he said. "He helped me out on the court as far as sacrificing and doing what you have to do to get better if you want to see the court. Off the court, he taught me that once you leave this campus, you're going to become a man out there in the real world and that's what he tried to prepare us for. I try to thank him for that every time that I can."

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