Name: Kenny Hayes
Date of Birth: 16th of April 1987
Pro Since: 2010
Last Club: Büyükcekmece
Role: Scoring Combo Guard
Key Skills: Scoring, Shiftiness, IQ
Stats: 19.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 0.6 SPG, 3.2 TPG (Turkey 1st div.)
Kenny Hayed dropped 52 points in the G-League, 47 in Turkey, 28 in Spain and 34 in Italy. He’s been all around the globe and surely knows the European game. He’s still one of the most talented scorers at age 33 and definitely one of the best remaining free agents on the market. The experienced guard talks about his desire to play, why he wasn’t happy last season despite averaging 20 points, his ability to be more than just a scorer and so much more…
Hey Kenny, how are you feeling right now and where are you currently?
I’m great, I feel really good. I’m currently at home constantly working out and waiting to know where I’ll end up next. It’s such a weird summer for me because of Covid. I’ve managed to use this free time to spend it with my family though.
Your season was cut short due to the corona virus and you played your last game in March. Was it good to get some additional rest or are you just focused on playing again as soon as possible?
It definitely sucked to have the season cut short, but it was good for my body. I was able to rest and save even more mileage on my legs. But I miss playing so bad and can’t wait to be a part of a team again.
As a hooper it has to be extremely frustrating not having access to a nearby gym right?
Yes! At first it was very difficult for me to not be able to get into a gym, but I used the resources I had and eventually was able to get into a gym. I was also going to the park one mile away from where I lived. It reminded me of my childhood days. But even though things are still closed here in the United States, I’ve been able to get into a gym and work on my craft.
Talking about your craft: You averaged over 20 points per game for Büyükcekmece in 2018/19 and were one of the best scorers in Europe. You did your thing last season too with almost 20 points per game. It makes sense that people label you as a scorer, but what do you think? How would you describe your game?
I feel like people who say that I’m just a scorer actually never watched me play. Yes I can score and it might be a god given ability that I’m blessed with, but I also play within the team. That’s really important. I was an extreme scorer at Büyükçekmece because that’s what they wanted me to do. Our offense was designed for me and I needed to be super aggressive to lead my team. But I can do much more than that!
I assume you’re referring to your playmaking?
Absolutely! I’m a scorer, but I feel like I’m a really good playmaker too. If someone is open, I’ll always pass. Each year I average at least 4 assist a game. And I’ve always let the game come to me. For example there have been times where I would feel the game out the entire first half just to get my teammates going. Because when I get them going, it’s so much easier for me. A lot of teams in the Turkish league designed their defense to slow me down. Against Bahcesehir (24th of March, 2019) I had 7 points at half time. 7 points. I ended up with 47 points and 4 assists.
That game was special…
It was! But also last season against Darussafaka, when they played Euroleague. I had 10 points at halftime and ended with 35 points, 5 assists and most importantly the win. I’m a scorer when I have to be. I will play within the system, but if my team needs me, I can take over the game. That’s why Büyükçekmece signed me. Teams like that want you to win the games for them.
You mentioned that you’re able to play in a structured system, but can also get buckets when you are the main guy. There aren’t many players out there with that ability!
Yes, I’m glad you took notice. Like I said: People who just label me as a scorer never watched me play. They just look at the stat sheet instead of actually taking the time to watch my game. I’ve been on teams like Malaga (Euroleague) or Limoges (Eurocup) with other talented scorers around me, where we all had to split minutes. I’ve been able to adjust to any type of style and always find a way to impact the game. That’s really helpful, no matter where I’m at.
Was it always easy for you or do you had to learn that over the years?
I think that comes from playing for the coaches I played for in high school and college in the US. I played in systems where I wasn’t able to just get buckets or play free. I’m ok with that. Honestly my ultimate goal is to win a championship overseas. I got close in France by making it to the semi final before losing to a very good team in Monaco. I think people get caught up thinking I just want to score and don’t care about losing. If you think that then you really don’t know me lol.
How are you after losses then?
My family says I’m terrible to be around after a game if I lose. I scored 47 points against Bahcesehir and 39 against Beşiktaş and lost. I was so angry. I didn’t speak to anyone. Didn’t wanna talk to the media because they wanted to praise my performances, but how can you praise a performance like that but took the L. My dad has always been on me about that. He would say “yes great performance, but you lost so it doesn’t count for anything”. He’s always been like this ever since I’ve started playing basketball as a kid.
Looking back at last season, there wasn’t much structure and stability in place. You only managed to win three games as a team and there were many obstacles you had to face. What exactly went wrong?
Honestly I sat out a ton of games because of money problems. The club not only owed me money from the current season but they were behind from the previous season too. Mentally I wasn’t in it and I didn’t want to be in Büyükçekmece. There was zero structure and guys just did whatever they wanted to do. I felt like everyone was playing for their own individual stats. Honestly I didn’t blame them, especially the young guys who were tryna make a name for themselves. People don’t realize it was more than just basketball we had to deal with last season in Büyükçekmece.
There were rumors that you didn’t even practice for quite some time…
Those were true, unfortunately. We would go an entire week and wouldn’t even practice. Turkish guys would also sit out because they didn’t receive their money. The way I looked at it last year was: I work way to hard to waste my talent for this club. And if I get hurt trying to save this club I’m even more screwed for the upcoming season on top of really not getting paid. I had enough of their lies and I chose to sit out a lot of games until they at least paid me something. How is it fair for me to risk my career for a club that owes me money from the previous season and the current season? I love Büyükçekmece the city but I didn’t like how things were being handled last year with the basketball. Mentally I was checked out and wanted a fresh new start somewhere else. I wasn’t the only one checked out, pretty much the whole team was, that’s why we only won 3 games. So now you can understand why things were the way they were. We actually had a good team and should’ve been better if things on the management side were better in my opinion.
You mentioned so much of what went wrong last year and still you averaged 19.8 points per game in one of the best leagues in Europe, despite all the negative stuff. How does that make you feel?
Me personally I feel like I had the worst season of my career. Not because I feel like I’m losing a step. I feel great as far as my body, but mentally I was checked out of Büyükçekmece. I wasn’t even having fun playing basketball anymore. It got to a point where I was starting to become depressed. Yes I averaged 20ppg but trust me: I wasn’t happy with it, at all!
You also played more as a Point Guard than in years past, sometimes 35 or 40 minutes a game. Was it something you liked or do you prefer to stay in the combo guard, on/off ball role?
I played full time point guard pretty much the whole season and it took me out of my game honestly. Yes I can play the PG, but I don’t like to play it full time. I’m a combo who can slide over to play the PG. I’m a playmaker/scorer. I’ve been successful my entire career being a combo. You get more than just a scorer with me. I can score, yes, but I can also get you 10 assist.
After the disappointing last season there might be teams looking at your age, your slightly worse percentages and the record of your team and could be worried. What do you want them to know?
Honestly the age thing to me is the dumbest thing ever. Nowadays with the technology, age means nothing if you take care of your body. Also having experience on a team is much better than having a young guy who might be talented, but doesn’t understand how to play European basketball. I’ve seen it every year where teams take a risk at signing a young player that might be very skilled and talented, but isn’t ready mentally for the style of play in Europe. As far as my percentages last season it’s not me. I played out of position last season, so a lot of my shots came from me having to create it for myself or I had to jack shots up with the shot clock running down. All I have to say about it honestly is: watch the games instead of only looking at the stat sheet. If you actually watch the games you will see that I was forced to take terrible shots that I didn’t want to take. Teams shouldn’t worry about my percentages one bit.
And what about your body? You still looked really explosive and shifty out there!
I feel really good. Still got all of my explosiveness, quickness and basketball IQ. Also the experience. Age means nothing to me especially considering the way I take care of my body. There are guys younger than me and my body is in better shape then theirs because they don’t take good care of their body. Also I’m 33, I’m still in my prime! I laugh if people mention my age. They act as if I’m 37 or something. I feel good and whoever signs me will be extremely happy they did. Not only do I consider myself a good player, but I’m also a great teammate and that’s really important.
You are a free agent right now and will play for a new team in the upcoming season. Obviously all the teams out there have certain plans for their roster, but what about you? In this stage of your career what are you looking for the most in your new team?
Right now I just want to play. I miss playing so much! But my number one priority is going somewhere where I’ll get all of my money. Playing in Büyükçekmece the last two seasons has really screwed me and my family financially. Second I just want to play for a team that has goals to win. Not just goals to stay in the league. but at least goals to make the playoffs and potentially the championship. I also want to be somewhere where my family will love it. I have two daughters with a baby on the way and it’s really important for us to be in a place with a good family environment as well.
You have multiple options on the table and one of them might be a team in Japan. Teams out there have been really aggressive in terms of snatching high-level players from all over the world and offering solid money. The league is getting better and better too. Would you consider playing there?
I would love to play in Japan. I’ve heard great things about the league. I’ve also been told my game would be loved there.
What about the other countries you played in so far? Where did you feel most comfortable and which spot impressed you the most?
I really loved Spain, Italy and Israel. Also Turkey. Obviously not the not being paid on time stuff, but I love Turkey as a country. I’ve been blessed and I’ve pretty much loved every place I’ve played at mainly because I’m playing basketball as my job. It can’t get any better than that!
You mentioned some of the countries where you had huge success in and also a couple of really outstanding games at the beginning of the interview. It might not be easy, but what has been the most memorable game in your career so far?
Hmm that is tough! I’ve been in so many memorable games. I would say when I scored 34 points in Italy with Cremona to seal a spot in the top 8 for the Italian cup. It was the first time the club made the Top 8 and the Italian cup. That was dope, for sure. But yeah, also last season against Turk Telekom: I hit the game winner after us being down 10 points with 2 minutes left in the game. When I played for the Maine Red Claws my team was down 20 points against the top team in the league – and I scored 52 points with 18/29 from the floor. I scored 17 consecutive baskets to bring my team back to win the game. The game I mentioned against Darussafaka stands out too. I was able to take over the game and really lead my team to a win. Scored 25 points in the second half and ended with 35 points. Also against Bahcesehir, the 47 point game against a very good team. It was in a losing effort, but we were down 20 points and I only had 7 points at half time. I told my best friend at half time Osiris Eldridge, that I was about to take over the game. He said “go ahead we need it” and I ended up scoring 40 points in the second half of the game. Unfortunately we lost by 3…
You had so many great games, it must be hard to pick just one right?
Let’s see which memorable game is next, surely there will be more around the corner. Thank you for taking the time Kenny, we appreciate your honesty and wish you and your family all the best for next season!
You’re welcome, I appreciate it! Thank you for giving me the opportunity and I’m really looking forward to get back to playing again!