Hayward to play in Portsmouth Invitational

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By: David Kay

The Portsmouth Invitational presents an opportunity for college basketball seniors to impress NBA scouts and hopefully secure a spot in the NBA Draft.  Marquette senior forward Lazar Hayward will get that chance next week.

Marquette’s second all-time leading scorer has been invited to and accepted an invitation to participate at Portsmouth where every NBA team will have representatives on hand breaking down each and every facet of every player’s game.  A great or terrible showing during the four-day tournament could be the difference of being a second round pick or going undrafted.

Hayward will compete as part of team “Roger Brown’s” featuring fellow headband rocker Wayne Chism of Tennessee (Headbands UNITE!), Duke’s Brian Zoubek, Cal’s Jerome Randle, Iowa State’s Marquis Gilstrap, and three guys you have probably never heard of; Osiris Eldridge of Illinois State, James Florence from Mercer, and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Kevin Palmer.  Click here for a complete list of players attending.

Most mock drafts including my own have Hayward as a second round prospect for this summer’s draft.  Still, the 6-6 senior has plenty to prove at Portsmouth.  Despite playing out of position for most of his collegiate career down low, the 6’6” Buffalo native showed his toughness, unselfishness, and ability to bang down low against bigger, more physical opponents.

Now Hayward will need to prove to scouts that he is capable of being a wing player at the next level since he projects to be a small forward in the pros.  Marquette fans know he is a proven winner, the epitome of an ideal teammate, and can knock down outside shots.  If Hayward wants to impress scouts, he will need to show that he can put the ball on the deck, take defenders off the dribble, and guard on the perimeter; areas of his game that are considered weaknesses.

With most first-round prospects skipping Portsmouth, Hayward will not be going against the top competition of the 2010 draft class.  However, the stage will be set for him to stand out among fellow bubble second round picks and great college players like West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler, St. Mary’s Omar Samhan, and Wisconsin’s Trevon Hughes.

Portsmouth is not the final stop though.  Hayward, who scored a game-high 23 points in the NABC All-Star Game Friday afternoon as part of the Final Four festivities, will likely go through a series of work-outs for several teams in the month leading up to the draft where teams will get a better chance to breakdown his potential as an NBA player.

Remember, if Hayward does not get drafted, it certainly does not mean he won’t get a chance to play in the association.  Just ask former Marquette guard Wesley Matthews.  But Portsmouth could be a great extension for ‘Zar to build off a phenomenal senior season.

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