Jazz players recall NCAA tourney glory days

Published: Tuesday, March 19 2013 3:50 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, Marvin Williams has ultimate bragging rights in the Utah Jazz locker room.

But even though Williams is the only Jazz player with a national championship on his basketball resume, all the March Madness hype and hubbub brings back sweet memories for these professional athletes.

That's especially true for Williams, who helped lead North Carolina to the 2005 NCAA title. He had a key bucket late in the Tar Heels' 75-70 win over Deron Williams' Illinois team.

"Yeah, I don't think anybody will say anything to me because they know I have that in my back pocket," Williams said Monday after Jazz shootaround. "I might come in and wear one of my rings."

Utah swingman Gordon Hayward came one half-court shot away from sporting his own championship ring back in 2010, but the former Butler standout did pick up more wins on the Jazz's home court as an amateur than any of his current teammates.

Hayward smiled while reminiscing about his Bulldogs' magical run to the Final Four, which included Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight victories at EnergySolutions Arena three springs ago.

"Just great times," Hayward said. "We played and beat two really good teams. Syracuse was probably the most talented team in that tournament. Kansas State was really good as well. It was a lot of fun, just a lot of fun."

Playing on an NBA hardwood was also a hoot for Hayward and his Butler buddies. Being able to do that in his first basketball trip to Utah made the experience all the more special.

"Yeah, it did," he said. "Especially because at Butler, we never really played at NBA arenas. ... We didn't really get very many opportunities to do that."

Sorry, Jazz fans, but Hayward was excited to play on the same court where Michael Jordan hit the most famous shot of his career (after pushing off of Bryon Russell, of course). It was also neat for him to play — and cut down a net — in the building where John Stockton and Karl Malone called home for so many years.

"I remember talking about the playoffs. We all grew up watching some of that," Hayward recalled. "We talked about the players (Jazz and Bulls) that were playing on that court and getting an opportunity to do that. It was a pretty cool experience."

Speaking of pretty cool experiences, Jazz guard Randy Foye posted a fun photo from his past on his Instagram account Monday afternoon.

The action shot showed a baby-faced Foye shooting a jumper for his Villanova squad over a North Carolina player named Marvin Williams. Foye scored 28 points in the Sweet Sixteen game, but Williams' team eked out a 67-66 nail-biting win to advance.

Foye posted this text with the picture: "Nova Vs N. Carolina this Friday @7:30p. @foyeboy #Marvin Williams going at it in 05 NCAA tournament. #WeGotCheated #IHad28Pts #WeWillWinThisFriday #GoNova."

That's right.

Foye's Wildcats and Williams' Tar Heels are pitted against each other in the opening round — a rematch of North Carolina's victory that remains a sore subject for the Villanova product.

"Me and Marv are already talking. My Villanova Wildcats play his Tar Heels," Foye said. "We've been discussing a few things among ourselves."

Such as?

"I can't talk about that," he said, smiling. "Every time teams play each other guys are always trash-talking and going back and forth. We're just excited to watch the game together. Put it that way."

So, Williams?

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