Australian freshman guard Kieran Hayward has only been at LSU a few months now, but he feels the adjustment is going well so far on the court. When Hayward would played AAU in the U.S., he'd get exposed to some of the American game, but he said it's the physicality day-to-day that's the biggest adjustment.
"Culturally, it's really different. Basketball wise has also been a huge adjustment with the speed of the game and everything, the physicality, it's all a big adjustment. I feel like I'm doing well with it so far," Hayward said. "Every day I'm getting better. I know I just have to see what everything happens."
LSU director of basketball operations Charlie Leonard and former LSU assistant coach David Patrick led the way on recruiting Hayward to LSU along with other members of the staff. His trip over to U.S. with the Aussie Hoops team was a big part to his recruitment, which was different from most high school players.
"That was a huge part of my recruiting process. A lot of the coaches don't come over to Australia to watch you play so going over to America was a great opportunity to showcase my skills and get recruited," Hayward said. "It was a team effort from the coaches I feel like and that's a big reason why I committed here because I felt welcome at LSU."
For his freshman season, Hayward hasn't thought much about his expectations for himself.
"I'm just going to see how it goes. I feel like I've been practicing well lately. When the season comes around, we're just going to see what happens. Hopefully, I can make the most of everything," Hayward said. "I'm trying to improve on every aspect of my game and see where it takes me."
Defense, like for the entire team, has been where Hayward has been focusing most of his efforts. He sees a void in the team that he can fill though with Keith Hornsby's departure to the NBA.
"When I got here, I focused on defense and taking advantage of my opportunities whenever I got the ball and make the most of that," Hayward said. "My strengths are playing up and down and getting up the floor and shooting especially," the 6-4, 190-pound guard said. "With Keith Hornsby leaving, I'm going to try and fill those shoes as best I can. He left a big gap in the program, but I'm going to do the best I can to fill those shoes."
Johnny Jones said on Wednesday that Hayward's ability to stretch the floor will be something Hayward brings to LSU.
"We think he's shown us a great bright spot with his ability to really stretch the floor and shoot and the athleticism that he really provides and brings to our team," Jones said at Wednesday's press conference.
Coming off of last season, a lot of the players feel like the team is under the radar and Hayward echoed that.
"There's obviously that, but I feel we're underdogs too and people don't know too much about us, but I feel like we got a lot to prove."
Hayward was a two-year captain and MVP of the basketball team at St. Joseph's College in Sydney, where he averaged 18 points and eight rebounds in his senior season.
Notes on Hayward from Wednesday's practice:
- Hayward tried to throw down a missed floater by a teammate with one hand, but wasn't able to throw it down.
- Got caught on a screen under the basket and was slow to close out on Blakeney because of that. "Where was Kieran? He wasn't aware of the play," Johnny Jones said of the play.
- Hayward did have a nice drive around the entire defense and kicked it out to a teammate for an open three.
- The coaches worked with Hayward on recognizing screens and not getting caught on cuts especially on the baseline. Hayward learned quickly after getting caught by Blakeney earlier in the practice. He then made the adjustment and was right on Blakeney the next time he tried the play.