Humble Hayward unshaven, not stirred by limelight

By Steve Ginsburg

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Butler's chances of winning the national championship over Duke revolve around a soft-spoken, baby-faced kid who has not shaved since the West Region final 10 days ago.

"There's a little bit of scrub there," Gordon Hayward said Sunday, rubbing his face in an effort to convince reporters -- with success -- there was at least a trace of a whisker.

Hayward's "aw-shucks" nature is part of the reason Butler is widely seen as a bunch of overachievers that have relied more on emotion than athleticism to roll through the 64-team NCAA basketball tournament.

The 6-foot-9, 207-pound Hayward, however, is merely biding his time at Butler until the NBA knocks on the door of the versatile sophomore with the soft shooting touch.

Although there are several quality players on the Butler team, he is the one that must be on his game if the Bulldogs are going to have any chance of knocking off Duke on Monday night.

Hayward scoffs at the idea that he is the Bulldogs' catalyst, saying, "My team mates, they sure do make me look good."

Butler coach Brad Stevens said he will discuss the NBA with Hayward after the season.

"He's a humble guy," said Stevens. "He's an easy guy to coach, a great kid. He's made a huge imprint on Butler. Obviously, we'd love for him to be at Butler.

"At the same time, Gordon Hayward will be the priority and whatever he decides, I'll support him a hundred percent."

Hayward, who grew up a jump shot away from the Bulldogs' Indianapolis campus, averages a team-leading 15.2 points and 8.3 rebounds for the champions of the Horizon League.

He is one of 10 players on the roster from Indiana, a clear sign that the 71,000 people at Lucas Oil Stadium on Monday, as well as most of underdog-loving America, will be rooting for the unheralded crew from the obscure school of 4,500 students.

"One of my team mates pulled up on his phone a visual that showed who everyone was going for and I think the whole country was blue, which was our color," he said.

"That was kind of cool for us. But we're just going to go out there and play basketball and not worry about that."

Hayward is still trying to come to grips with his new-found celebrity, saying he was "swarmed" by well-wishers at his hometown church in Brownsburg on Sunday.

"I'm there signing autographs on church programs," he said. "It was great but it was weird."

(Editing by Justin Palmer)