As a sophomore, he was part of the UK team that handed then No. 1 Florida a 20-point loss at Rupp Arena, a game he calls his most memorable as a collegian. However, just after Hayes finished his eligibility came a not so memorable moment when he found himself undrafted in the 2005 NBA Draft.
"Yeah, I was surprised and was hurt," Hayes admitted. "Every prospect wants to hear their name called but that's how it goes. It wasn't any shock because I have been an underdog ever since I have been playing this game. In the end, you've got to prove yourself. There's nothing better than the look on somebody's face than when you surprise them and catch them off guard. It's something I've been doing and will continue to do."
Instead, Hayes was the sixth overall pick in the 2005 NBA D-League Draft and played in 14 games for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, averaging around 12 points and 12 rebounds per game before getting called up to the NBA in January 2006. "It (playing in the D-League) just made me hungry," he said. "This something I have always wanted. I chose to stay in the D-League instead of going overseas. I felt like I had a better opportunity and a month and a half later, I was in Houston. I'm still here and hopefully, I can stay here."