Former UGA standout and NBA player Jarvis Hayes talks about his journey to Georgia State

It’s late Monday morning and the Georgia State men’s basketball team has just finished its daily 9 a.m. practice. The players are working hard and seem to be drilling each shot they put up before hitting the showers following the two-hour practice. The focus of the Panthers is undeniable as the coaching staff makes the reigning Sun Belt champions work hard a week and a half before their East Coast road trip to Duke University and Georgetown. 

Among those coaches is Jarvis Hayes, who loves the game just as much as anyone else does.

Most people see a normal guy when they look at Jarvis Hayes. They see a coach who wants to encourage his team to play the best 40 minutes of basketball possible. You wouldn’t know that the 6-foot, 8-inch guy on the bench is a die-hard Atlanta Falcons fan, who has held season tickets for three seasons.

You also wouldn’t know that he played in the NBA with some of the all-time greats. In 2003, the Washington Wizards selected the University of Georgia junior with the 10th overall pick in the NBA draft.

“You know what, I remember this day like it was yesterday,” Hayes told me, as we watched NBA Commissioner David Stern announce the selection together.

His first purchase when the Wizards gave him his first check?

“A BMW 745,” he said. “It was maroon, like a cranberry. It was one of one.”

During his rookie season, his point guard was second-year superstar Gilbert Arenas. His mentor was Jerry Stackhouse, who battled injuries much of that first season.

“He would give me pointers,” Hayes said. “I think it was invaluable in that I looked up to him like he was a big brother to me.”

After four seasons, Hayes began his journey with another team in the 2007-08 season: the Detroit Pistons. He spoke fondly of the culture that was in the locker room, especially Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace.

“The first conversation I’d ever had with [Wallace], he was speaking to me like I’d known him for twenty years,” Hayes said, citing Wallace as the best teammate he ever had.

“Chauncey is probably the greatest leader that I’ve ever played with,” Hayes said about Billups, who was nominated for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2019.

“You see why [the Pistons] win and the way Chauncey leads and communicates with guys and his teammates,” Hayes said. “I don’t know what it is, but he definitely had it. And Rasheed, being the teammate he was, that was the best team, the best atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of hands down.”

In April, Rob Lanier was hired to be the next head coach at Georgia State. Familiar with Lanier’s work, Hayes attended the press conference. At the time, he was an assistant coach at Morehouse College, just down the road from the GSU Sports Arena. He wasn’t coming to ask for an opening on the coaching staff; after all, the bench was already filled with guys who Lanier he knew he could trust. Before his press conference, however, Lanier was unsure of which tie he wanted to wear.

“As fate would have it, I got there really early and [as] I was walking into the press conference, [Lanier’s] pulling into the parking lot,” Hayes said. “I had a thirty-minute conversation [with him] before he went in.”

As a matter of fact, Lanier was familiar with Hayes.

“He said that my name had already been mentioned to him, so it was finally good to have that face-to-face introduction,” Hayes said. “A couple of days later, [Lanier] called, and he kept calling. We stayed in contact. And one thing led to another, and he wanted to offer me the [assistant coach] job.”

Hayes understands that his job is unique and that many people would dream of doing what he does.

“Just being able to have guys [like] Coach Lanier, the places he’s been and the guys he’s coached … I think it’s a blessing to be able to continue to grow under him,” Hayes said. “He’s allowing me to do it and I’m eternally grateful.”

Since the spring, he’s already been immensely impacted by his players, such as junior guard Kane Williams and senior forward Damon Wilson.

“I put a lot of praise on Kane Williams. As the leading returning scorer, if anybody had a reason to be resistant to the new staff, it’s him,” Hayes said, citing the change from the zone defense of former head coach Ron Hunter to Lanier’s man-to-man press defense.

He also acknowledged that Wilson bought into the new system from day one along with Williams

“[Wilson] is a great leader. When you have your two guys [that] kind of buy-in first, it makes the process that much easier,” Hayes said. “You look at Dame [and] Kane and the mentality that those two came in [with], it made [the coaching staff’s] job just a little bit easier trying to instill what it is that the overall vision for the program is.”

However, Hayes has also impacted people off the court as well, such as Associate Athletic Director Mike Holmes.

“Coach Hayes has been an absolute pleasure to work with since arrival at Georgia State last spring,” Holmes said in an email to The Signal. “As much as I enjoy watching him coach, I get great pleasure talking to him off the court about non-basketball related stuff. He is as humble as any person I have ever met and look forward to working with him for many years to come.”

I found this out first-hand, as Hayes and I laughed and discussed which NBA players he has on his Mt. Rushmore.

“You’ve got Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and…” it took him a minute to figure out who he wanted at the sixth spot. He brought up Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson. Eventually, he settled with Kobe Bryant.

On the court in the future, we can expect great things from Jarvis Hayes, whose dream teammate is LeBron James — the pinnacle of success in the NBA, on personal and team levels.

He will work hard while he learns the game of basketball on the coaching side of things. He’s excited to help his players grow, both as athletes and, more importantly, as men.

“For me, the mark I want to leave at [Georgia State], hopefully, it’s a long time from now: being of service in whatever way possible,” Hayes said. “The definition of a coach is to not only coach basketball players, but lead young men and being able to take boys from their families and have them leave this institution as men.”