Utah Jazz players reflect on treasured tournament moments
Rob Goebel, Indianapolis Star
SALT LAKE CITY — Making it to the 2012 playoffs provided a sweet feeling of accomplishment for the Utah Jazz.
Granted, that might be difficult to remember a week later, considering the Texas-sized tumble they took in San Antonio.
But we interrupt the Jazz bashing and fans' teeth gnashing for a peek at more positive postseason moments the players have had over the years.
The Deseret News asked Jazz players to relate their all-time personal favorite playoff experiences — from preps to college to the pros — and these are the stories their grandchildren are likely to hear over and over again:
The shooting guard loved his two-year experience at Butler. He won over college basketball fans' hearts while helping the Bulldogs advance to the 2010 NCAA championship game.
But his fondest memory happened a year before college.
"My favorite postseason moment," the 22-year-old said, "was when we won the state championship in high school."
That moment so happens to be a chapter in Hoosier State lore.
Hayward's 2008 Brownsburg team trailed 39-38 with 2.1 seconds remaining when Austin Fish made a long inbounds pass from three-quarters of the court away. An opponent tipped the ball, but Hayward grabbed it and quickly put it up and in just before the buzzer went off. Pandemonium ensued inside Conseco Fieldhouse after the Bulldogs edged Marion 40-39 for Indiana's coveted Class 4A crown in style.
"High school basketball in Indiana is, like, everything," Hayward said. "We were the underdogs. No one picked us to win that year, and then to win in the fashion that we did, it was just cool. Pretty special."
The party continued from Indianapolis to Brownsburg's auditorium 15 miles away. The championship team bus even had a police escort.
"We pulled into the high school gymnasium," Hayward said, "and pretty much the whole town was in there."
Not only did the Brownsburg boys receive a heroes welcome, but the celebration lasted past midnight and onto March 23 — Hayward's 18th birthday.
"Everybody sang 'Happy Birthday,' which was pretty cool," he said. "I never had a birthday sung like that."
Before his underdog, sixth-seeded UCLA team took on No. 3 Maryland in the second round of the 2000 NCAA tournament, Watson read a disturbing blurb in a press release. The Terrapins had beaten North Carolina and Duke in the regular season, but the school had never downed the Tar Heels, Blue Devils and Bruins all in the same year.
"It really bothered me and I showed my coach, Steve Lavin," Watson said. "I was upset. I wanted to say something to the media. Lavin said, 'No. Let your game do the talking.' "
Turned out, Watson's game talked in a very loud voice.
The scrappy point guard dished out a school-record 16 assists with zero turnovers, hit five 3-pointers en route to 17 points, and led UCLA to the Sweet Sixteen with a 105-70 drubbing of Maryland.
"It was big. It was a big part of UCLA basketball," Watson said. "That UCLA experience was something I'll always remember."
All the more impressive, Watson toughed out his performance despite suffering a torn retina in the first five minutes. It took about seven stitches to repair what he called "the worst injury I've ever had."
The power forward went to the playoffs his first four NBA years, including a Western Conference finals appearance in 2007.
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