Hayward reminisced about previous opportunities he’s had to play for his country, including his standout stint in 2009 with the gold-winning U-19 squad in New Zealand. (Favors was invited to play for Basketball USA in high school, but had to withdraw due to a family situation.)
“It’s a great experience,” Hayward said. “Any time you come here and you get to put 'USA' on your chest and compete against the best, play under the best coaches, you’ve got to soak it all up.”
Hayward and Favors are trying to continue making a favorable impression on USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski this week. The Jazz players are among 28 young up-and-coming Americans — Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and John Wall are among the group's elite — who could earn spots on national teams, including for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Both Jazz players share a common desire to be Team USA teammates in the future.
“I’m just out here playing, trying to compete, trying to earn me a spot on the team,” said Favors, who had one strong move to the hoop for a layup in the short scrimmage. “I’m just trying to do anything, whether it’s defense or rebounding, talking on defense, blocking shots, running the court — just anything to separate myself, something to catch their eye.”
Hayward said he’s using this week — the mini-camp ends with a public scrimmage Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center — as another “learning experience.” The 6-8 small forward’s hustle on defense caused a few turnovers in the final scrimmage. He also joked that Favors got away with a foul on him.
“You just come out here and compete,” Hayward said. “That’s all they ask you to do — play hard, play the right way. You don’t need to put on a scoring clinic or anything, just go out and do the right thing.”
Do that enough times, and you might get lucky enough to play alongside LeBron James, Chris Paul & Co. with a gold medal on the line.
“You’re put into these environments to show you can play and to show you belong, to get a tryout to make the team,” Hayward said. “I’ve been lucky enough to play for one of the youth teams, and there’s nothing like it. Playing in high school and college and in the NBA, there’s nothing like playing for your country.”
One thing that might top that?
Playing for your country with a trusted teammate.
“I think we’ve both come a long way,” Hayward said of himself and Favors. “We still have a lot more work to do, but I wouldn’t have any other big guy than Fav-O with me.”