MODESTO — Critics believed there was no place for Chuck Hayes in the NBA.
Too short to be a center.
Too slow to be a wing or a forward.
Couldn't shoot from the perimeter.
Eight seasons later, Hayes has fooled them all.
The graduate of Modesto Christian High and Kentucky, a poster child for the overachieving pro, has carved a remarkable career as a high school star, a collegiate standout where the game is virtually a religion, and a savvy and dependable NBA veteran.
Hayes returns to Modesto as the guest speaker at the 46th annual Outstanding Athlete Awards banquet on Wednesday night at the Sportsmen of Stanislaus.
Stanislaus County's top high school and collegiate/open athletes of 2012 will be honored, and Hayes' presence is noteworthy. He is one of only 12 over the years to earn the top OAA award in both categories.
Hayes' career is rich with symmetry. He has spent his last three seasons with the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Pavilion, where he played his most memorable playoff games as an MC Crusader.
The OAA night also will feature Bob Thomason, the recently retired head basketball coach at the University of the Pacific after a 25-year run. Thomason, who learned his trade as a head coach at Escalon High, Turlock, Columbia College and Cal State Stanislaus, will receive the Darell Phillips Coaches Award.
This year's inductee to the Hall of Fame is John Azevedo, the two-time high school state wrestling champion from Grace Davis who also won an NCAA title at Cal State Bakersfield. As a coach, Azevedo built a prep powerhouse at Calvary Chapel seven state titles and also led Cal Poly for eight years until he stepped down in 2011.
The Jay Pattee honoree for public service to the sports community also will be recognized, along with the Tom Mellis scholarship winners and the Lt. Daniel B. Hyde Memorial Award.
Girls high school finalists
HALIE BERGMAN (basketball): Bergman, a senior at Turlock Christian and bound for the University of the Pacific, overcame serious knee injuries to average a county-leading 25.3 points a game as a junior. She also averaged 8.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists for a team that reached the Sac-Joaquin Section D5 final.
KATELYN HARDEN (softball): Harden, a senior at Hughson, pitched the Huskies to a section title. She went 25-1 with 15 shutouts, a 0.32 ERA and 285 strikeouts in 155 innings. Harden also batted .518 with 37 RBIs and 26 runs.
MAYCIE LaBASS (volleyball): LaBass, a junior at Gregori, had 579 kills tops in the section for the MMC champion Jaguars as a sophomore. She also led the team with 279 digs as Gregori reached the section final. LaBass also started fast this season for a team that defended its league title.
GABBY MAURICE (softball): Maurice, a senior at Johansen, batted .614 with nine home runs, 27 RBIs and 18-for-18 stolen bases as a junior. She was named the state's junior softball player of the year and a second-team All-American by ESPN. She will continue her career at UCLA.
MARYSSA McDUFFY (basketball-soccer): McDuffy, a senior at Gregori, averaged 16.8 points and led the Grace Davis Spartans to a Modesto Metro Conference title as a junior. She also played a major role in the Spartans' MMC soccer title. McDuffy finished 2012 on a Gregori team that eventually annexed the MMC crown.
Boys high school finalists:
RAYMOND BOWLES (basketball): Bowles, a senior at Modesto Christian, averaged 18.6 points a game as a junior for the section-champion Crusaders. He continued his strong play as a senior and will play at Pacific after his MC graduation.
LOGAN HANDZLIK (baseball): Handzlik, from Fresno, spent only his junior year at Oakdale. He went 12-2 with a 1.55 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 76 innings. He pitched the Mustangs to the section D4 title.
RAY LOMAS (football-wrestling): Lomas, a senior at Central Catholic, rushed for 2,084 yards and 34 touchdowns and anchored the Raiders' campaign to the state title. In wrestling, he was the Section Masters champion at 145 pounds and placed fifth in the state as a junior.
SPENCER THOMAS (football): Thomas, a senior at Oakdale, quarterbacked the Mustangs to a 14-2 record, a Section D3 title and a berth in the state finals. He passed for 1,740 yards and 25 touchdowns. In three seasons with Thomas at QB, Oakdale was 37-7.
AARON ZWAHLEN (football): Zwahlen, a senior at Downey, anchored the Knights' drive to a 10-2 record and an MMC title. He passed for 3,852 yards, second in the Sac-Joaquin Section, and 49 touchdowns. Zwahlen earned a scholarship to Hawaii.
Women's open division finalists
JAMIE BECK (basketball-volleyball): Beck, a sophomore at Modesto Junior College, led California with her 1.49 blocks-per-set for the MJC volleyball team. In basketball, the Ceres product finished her freshman season by averaging 10 points and 7.7 rebounds, and had a school-record 79 blocks.
KARENEE DEMERY (soccer): Demery, a junior at Cal State Stanislaus, matched her school record with 19 goals and totaled 41 points to again lead the Warriors to the California Collegiate Athletic Association title. The former OAA finalist was named to the All-American team and was the CCAA's most valuable offensive player for a second time.
AMANDA PRIDMORE (softball): Pridmore, a senior at San Jose State out of Modesto High, finished her junior season with an 18-15 record and a 2.08 ERA with 201 strikeouts in 209 innings (the second-most strikeouts in school history). She was named to the All-Western Athletic Conference first team.
Men's open division finalists:
ELI DAVIS (baseball): Davis, who completed his career at Cal State Stanislaus last spring, batted .399 with eight home runs and 49 RBIs and was named to the All-CCAA team and third-team Division II All-America honors. The graduate of MJC and Turlock Christian was the third Stanislaus player to be recognized as an All-American.
REGGIE JONES (basketball): Jones, who completed his career at Stanislaus last year, became the school's first All-American since the Warriors switched to Division II in 1989. The forward averaged 19.1 points and 6.9 rebounds. Jones was one of 16 to be selected to the NABC All-American team.
JAMES ORTH (football): Orth, a senior at San Jose State, started all 13 games as a safety on arguably the Spartans' best-ever team (11-2). He had 58 tackles for the season and eight interceptions for his career as a three-year starter. Orth also was selected to play in the Casino del Sol All-Star Game in Tucson, Ariz.
Tickets for the banquet, which is open to the public, are available at the SOS. Call (209) 578-5801.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at