Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward, Jimmer Fredette know the transition from college to the pros isn't easy

No longer big man on campus

Published: Thursday, Jan. 26 2012 10:16 p.m. MST

Gordon Hayward, Earl Watson, Derrick Favors and C.J. Miles enter the court from timeout as the Jazz let the Wizards break away in overtime to win 100-95.

Lennie Mahler, Deseret News

DALLAS — The Utah Jazz are one game, 24-plus hours and 1,200 miles away from experiencing Jimmermania.

When that moment finally arrives at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday and Jimmer Fredette makes his highly anticipated NBA debut in his college state, the BYU star will be on the basketball court with a young man who knows what he's going through this season.

Jimmer, meet Gordon Hayward.

College Poster Boy 2011, introducing NCAA Tournament Darling 2010.

Shake hands, play a good game and continued luck trying to live up to those high expectations based on your college achievements.

"Any rookie who's drafted early is going to have those expectations," said Hayward, picked No. 9 by the Jazz in 2010. (Fredette was the No. 10 selection in '11.) "Depending on the system that they're placed in and the opportunity that they're going to get, the expectations might not always be real."

Real or not, they can also be hard to live up to.

But first things first.

Hayward and his Jazz squad have a rematch Friday night with the Dallas Mavericks, and both the second-year small forward and Utah hope to bounce back.

The Jazz are coming off their biggest stumble of the season — a double-overtime loss to a Toronto club that only had five wins (and 13 losses) prior to tripping up the well-rested and favored home team. The 111-106 setback was the Jazz's second in three games in Salt Lake City, going back to last Thursday's rough TNT loss to the Mavs.

As for Hayward, he has had an even tougher stretch. Since his season-high 19 points in a win at Denver, he has only scored 18 points total on 6-for-27 shooting in four games combined. During the slump, he's gone 0-for-10 from 3-point range.

Weird thing is, Hayward has been draining those shots in practice.

Practice precision, however, hasn't translated into game-time performance. On the season, Hayward is shooting 37.6 percent overall and 23.1 percent beyond the arc.

"He'll be OK," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said.

Even while Hayward searches for his missing touch, Corbin believes the Butler product gives the Jazz enough production elsewhere to keep starting him and playing him significant minutes.

Still, Corbin admitted he wondered if left Hayward in too long in the loss to Toronto — one of many questions he asked himself. The starting small forward scored two points on 1-for-9 shooting and had four turnovers but totaled seven boards, three assists and two steals.

"If you lose a game," Corbin added, "you critique everything, and we'll continue to do that."

The coach knows what the versatile Hayward is capable of now and believes in the 21-year-old's future, so he's not giving up on him. Corbin believes Hayward is one swish, one solid drive, one sweet pass away from smacking his slump in the face and busting out of his funk.

"He continued to compete," Corbin said. "I thought he did a good job on the defensive end of the floor. His energy was still good. He just didn't make shots."

Hayward knows he needs to stop thinking when shooting and "just let it fly." Hesitation and doubt are enemies to rhythm, which results in airballs and 20-foot rim-punishers.

Realizing that Corbin has his back is a shot in the arm for the currently wayward shooter. He's putting in extra time before and after practice and in pregame workouts to regain his groove and confidence.

"I'll get there," Hayward said. "I'm not worried."

As his coach repeats, Hayward's value doesn't lie just within snapping the nets or driving and dunking — although those would be added bonuses, of course.

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