Chuck Hayes’ hall-of-fame basketball career wasn’t fostered in a camp. He was, like many in the Stanislaus District in the 1990s, self-taught and motivated by the likes of MJ, Magic and Malone.
He studied the college and NBA game on television and rehearsed those moves in the driveway, at the park and during Saturday evening pick-up games.
“That’s where I got my development,” Hayes said during Monday’s morning session of the fourth annual Chuck Hayes Basketball Camp at Modesto Junior College.
It wasn’t until he was 16, nearly a man, that Hayes, a star at Modesto Christian High and the University of Kentucky, enrolled in his first camp. By then, his registration more about recruiting and exposure than development.
“Me and my father had nowhere to look,” Hayes said. “In the mid- to late-90s, there was nothing like this going on. I’m hoping this can be a major camp in the valley for years to come, and one of these kids can turn out to be a high school star, a college star or maybe in the pros.”
Hayes continues to be the example – its shining star – for an unheralded but fast-rising corner of the basketball world. He has been inducted into Kentucky’s Hall of Fame and spent 12 years on an NBA roster, manning the low block for the Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and the Toronto Raptors.
At 6-foot-6, Hayes wasn’t the ideal power forward, not in a league with 7-footers and high-risers, but his work ethic and drive made him employable. He averaged 3.7 points and 5 rebounds in 644 career games before joining the Denver Nuggets in September as a position coach and member of the front-office team.
From solitary workouts in the driveway to soldout arenas, Hayes demands only effort and a strict attention to the fundamentals.
“If you can dribble, pass and play defense,” he told a circle of campers, “the coach will play you.”
And so went Monday’s practice plan. Hayes squatted low, his 240-pound frame pressing down on Nike sneakers, and bounced the ball rhythmically back and forth, back and forth, and then between his legs.
“Just like this,” he said, cueing about 100 hip-high hoopers, each clad in a Chuck Hayes Basketball shirt.
Later, he latched onto a camper, refusing to walk away until he had mastered the bounce pass. Together, they shuffled the length of the floor, the biggest and smallest bodies in the gym. Each pass off the hands of Hayes threatened to bowl over the young child, who seemed to enjoy his one-on-one with the former pro.
Hayes says he will oversee the camp through Tuesday before returning to his duties for the Nuggets on Wednesday. He said it was important for him to be there for the start.
“I’m showing my commitment to this community and to these kids,” he said. “I’m obligated to do it; I feel that way. I can’t put my name on the camp and not be involved. I’m sweating more than anybody and it’s not even 10 o’clock. I’m committed to this community and the youth, and I’ve got to show it by getting involved.”
Nearly 200 kids have registered for the four-day camp, which is broken into three age groups: preschool through fourth grade; fifth through seventh grade; and eighth grade through high school.
Each camper received a shirt, basketball and access to many of the area’s top high school coaches, including Modesto Christian’s Brice Fantazia and Robb Spencer.
“I hope they learn and get better as a basketball player, and really, just have fun. We want to be a fun camp; we want to be an enjoyable camp,” Hayes said. “We want the kids to have high spirits. Even at 8 o’clock in the morning , I want them to go away saying, ‘I had a lot of fun learning basketball today.’ If we can do that, then we have one more person in the area that could become a basketball fanatic.”