Defense, defense and defense. Hayes was named the 2004 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, no small feat for an undersized power forward. Often asked to guard the opponent's best big man (whether he was 6'5" or 7'0"), Hayes could be counted on to lock down his man.
The beefy former Wildcat is also a rebounding machine who uses brawn to fight for loose balls and is effective at tipping the ball until he can get his mitts on it firmly. Hayes is also a surprisingly good shot-blocker for his size. In fact, Hayes left Kentucky in the top ten in rebounds and blocked shots.
Tubby Smith's system at UK turned Hayes into a superior interior passer, which could help elevate his draft stock tremendously. Hayes also developed excellent slashing skills, often finding ways to sneak the ball into the basket under or around bigger defenders.
Finally, Hayes is a leader. While the leadership angle is often overlooked at the pro level, ask the Warriors about having leaders. Ask the Hornets if they need a leader. There is a place in the NBA for guys who put teams on their backs. Whether Hayes can do that is unknown, but he's got the heart, if nothing else.
If Hayes were a legit 6'9", he'd probably be among the top draft prospects. But he's not that big and he's not among the top draft prospects.
Were Hayes as athletic as Charles Barkley, he might be able to compensate for his lack of size with leaping ability. But he isn't that athletic, so he has to use positioning and guts to get the job done. Positioning and guts work a lot better against Vanderbilt than they do against the Knicks, unfortunately.
Hayes also developed a hitch in his jump shot, shooting the ball on the way down from his jump. PJ Brown has this a little bit, but Hayes is not as effective a shooter as Brown by any stretch right now.
Because of his size, Hayes is prone to getting blocked from behind by taller players, something that plagued him at Kentucky.
The truth about Hayes hurts because he's the type of kid you want to succeed -- like Shane Battier from Duke or Lonny Baxter of Maryland. But unlike those guys, Hayes is a power forward trapped in a smaller man's body and only through massive effort can the much-beloved Wildcat overcome his natural deficiencies.
Simply put, Hayes competed at the highest level a player can in college. Week in and week out, the SEC and non-conference teams he played against came at him, trying to knock the usually-favored Wildcats off their perch. But Hayes was instrumental in making Kentucky the winningest in college basketball (win total-wise) over his four years.
Hayes tied the Kentucky record for consecutive starts in a career.
Hayes' long career at UK garnered him enough attention to merit an invite to Portsmouth, and a trip to Chicago would be a plus for the tweener big man.
Hayes has no shot of being taken in the first round and may suffer from "college-itis" (scouts know him too well) when it comes to getting picked in the second round, too.
But Hayes gives 110% all the time, and should warrant some free agent interest or make a summer league roster or two. If he brings the effort and intangibles he brought to UK, he could end up having a pro career.
There is a pretty good chance, however, that his pro career is in Turkey or Sweden, etc.
There should be more guys like Chuck Hayes in the NBA. If there were, you wouldn't see brawls in the stands, drug arrests off the court or guys beating their girlfriends up.
Hayes is a straight-shooter, a class act and a coach's dream. His athletic skills might not be world-class, but his heart is and counting the undersized forward out would be a mistake.
Hayes ranks 7th all-time at Kentucky in rebounds (910), 35th all-time in points (1211), 8th in steals (169), and 9th in blocked shots (128).
The MVP of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, after leading his team to the tournament title.