Gordon Hayward couldn't help but smile when he entered the gymnasium Thursday night prior to Jazz practice.
For one reason, he no longer has to participate in early morning workouts there.
For another reason, the Brownsburg, Ind., native used to call the place home.
"It's real weird," Hayward said about returning to the famous Hinkle Fieldhouse for the first time since leaving Butler to become a pro last fall. "It's good to be back and walking in."
Being welcomed by several of his old Butler teammates and coaches also made for a nice homecoming for the 20-year-old Hoosier hero.
"It's a weird feeling," Hayward said. "Especially seeing the guys and seeing coach."
The Butler guys and coach, that is.
With a day off before their game at Indiana on Friday, the Jazz arranged to work out in the same building where Hayward spent countless hours in his two college seasons en route to helping the Bulldogs become a national championship contender a year ago.
The main court was being gussied up for a post-practice meet-and-greet starring Hayward, so the Jazz borrowed Butler's auxiliary gym. A banner above the court featured a photo of a fresh-faced Hayward from his college days.
"I got a call from our trainer that said we were going to practice at Butler," Hayward said, "and a smile kind of came across my face to be able to come back here kind of where it all started, so it's really cool."
While traveling from the team hotel to his old stomping grounds, Hayward played the part of tour guide for rookie Jeremy Evans at the back of the bus, telling the Western Kentucky product what all of the buildings on campus were as they drove through.
Said Hayward: "(I told him) this is this, this is that, this is where I did this. ... It's really fun to be here."
Giving high-fives and being around his Bulldog buddies brought back a flood of memories for the Jazz rookie.
Gordon Hayward returns to his home — to Hinkle Fieldhouse
The Deseret News | Feb 25