Did Lazar sense that Marquette was the place for him even before Marquette started to recruit him?
Lazar explained how he first became involved with Marquette, "It was the end of the year last year and coach Mac said, ‘Have you ever heard about Marquette?' It was really weird because I had just been thinking about Marquette, wondering why they weren't recruiting me. It was THE VERY NEXT DAY coach came in and said that Marquette was coming to see me play. He said, ‘I'm not saying they want you, I'm not saying they will recruit you, but they are coming to see you play.' When they came out, I made sure it was my business to show them that I was a good player. They came in, and from there on...that was it."
Hayward selected Marquette over schools like Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Providence, UConn and Syracuse. These schools all have very strong basketball programs, but Lazar explained that he was looking for something more. "Everyone knows about Marquette's basketball history, and all of the coaches are good guys and really smart coaches, but the biggest thing about Marquette is that they really seem to have a family based team. You can always get along with those guys. They always keep you going and they work hard. That played a big role – these are the guys I'm going to be with for four years."
It didn't take long for Hayward to develop an admiration for Marquette Head Coach Tom Crean. "He's just a really good guy. I know he won't lie to me. I know he's going to be hard on me, and I've always had that type of coach – a real tough coach – in high school, AAU, and here at Notre Dame."
Since he signed with Marquette, Hayward continues to see evidence that he made the right decision, knowing that Tom Crean is already helping him develop. "When he comes and watches our games he follows up and says, 'You played a great game, but I'm not going to lie.' Then he writes down everything I did – the mistakes, the things he liked, the things he didn't like, and then he tells me what he can do when I come into school to help better me not just as a player but as a person too. Not just on the court but off of the court. That is something my dad would do."
During the recruiting process it is important for players to develop strong relationships with not only head coaches, but assistant coaches as well. This was an important part of Lazar's recruitment, and for him it was Marquette assistant coach Jason Rabadeaux. "If I hadn't chosen Marquette, I honestly think I would still call Coach Rab just to talk because he's a really good guy, and I'm not just saying that because he's going to be my coach. Coach Rab didn't lie to me. He would call me on the phone and say, ‘Do you want me to lie to you and tell you how great you are or do you want me to tell the truth and be honest with you?' I wanted the truth," said Hayward, "So he would tell me what I need to improve on, or what I did wrong in the last game. It doesn't get any better than that. You don't find people like Coach Rab everywhere."
Lazar's future teammates also played a significant role in his decision, as he did spend a lot of time with them while he was on Marquette's campus for his official visit. "Dominic and Wes really stood out, and Jerel too. As soon as I got there – we clicked. They were goofy off the court and once they stepped on the court it was all business."
His visit to Milwaukee wasn't the first time that Lazar had met his future point guard. "I actually played against Dominic my sophomore year. I was playing in a tournament in Indiana and this point guard was really good, and I had a great game too. He was so good that my dad and I went to talk to him after the game. We always wondered where he was going to school. When Coach Crean told me who my host was, I wondered, "Where do I know that name from? When I got to Marquette, I saw him and thought, He's that guy! I couldn't believe that he went to Marquette and was going to be my point guard! He's just a great guy. He's always playin', but when he gets on the court it's all business. That's how it is with all those guys."
When they played pickup games it was McNeal that stood out to Hayward. "Then there's Jerel – when we were playing, I went to the hole one time and we bodied up and I missed 'You got to go stronger than that if you want to play here.' When he said that, I said to myself this is definitely the team I want to play on."
Growing up in New York, Marquette's move to the Big East Conference meant more to Hayward than it would to kids from other parts of the country. "I grew up on Big East basketball and in high school my dad always said, 'I think you're going to be a Big East Basketball player.' I would never think that, I would just say that's my dad being a dad."
Hayward knows that basketball in the Big East is different than most conferences and he is ready for that challenge. "The Big East is intense. There's a high energy level, it's rough and very competitive, and I've been playing in those situations all of my life. I think the better the competition is, the better it will make me."
Hayward added, "Marquette moving to the Big East put the icing on the cake…..I can't wait!"