IT was a Sunday morning these kids will never forget.
Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward spent a part of his visit to the Philippines by playing a Jr. NBA Shootout game with street kids hosted by the KFC branch of the Mall of Asia.
The six boys from the Virlanie Foundation, which takes care of abandoned children, had fun shooting against Hayward who later gave them gift packs that included autographed basketballs and shirts.
“I think I will remember the passion you guys have for basketball. Just around every corner there’s a hoop and you guys serve as an inspiration for me as an NBA player. It’s pretty cool how passionate you guys are,” Hayward later told the media in a question and answer session of the event which has Spin.ph and When in Manila for media partners.
For more photos of the event, see GALLERY.
Hayward said he started playing at age four and had a dream to play in the NBA since he could remember although he was challenged by his small stature at the time.
“I was smaller when I was younger so the challenges were overcoming height issues and I almost quit basketball because I was so small. I kept working at it. I eventually grew and stayed with it,” he shared.
The 23-year-old is still a kid at heart. He said he likes to play video games and watch movies during his spare time. He said his favorite video game of all time is the role-playing Nintendo epic ‘Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.'
The Indianapolis native, who is a fan of retired Pacer great Reggie Miller and patterns his game after the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili, received a basketball card from one of the reporters covering the event. A grateful Hayward in turn autographed a couple of cards for the delighted mediaman.
Asked what the highlights of his trip were, Hayward answered,”This is definitely a highlight, I get to shoot with the kids. Another highlight was the opening ceremonies we had with the Jr. NBA. I got to see all the kids, got to eat dinner (with them), and put smiles on their faces when (WNBA star) Tina (Thompson) and I walked in.
“And then I got the chance to work with the kids. I got to teach them a couple of things and hear what I got to say and just to put that into effect with their play on the court.”
Hayward was cautious when asked if he was rooting for any team in the ongoing 2014 NBA Playoffs.
“I don’t think there’s a particular team or player but being from the Western Conference, I hope one of the teams from the West wins.”
He told the kids to “make sure you play outside. You want to be the best, you’ve got to sacrifice a little bit.”
Hayward later joined the Jr. NBA alumni of the past seven years in an exhibition game at the MOA Music Hall where his Team Gordon won against Team Tina, 62-57.