Eric Hayward was a Forward for the UConn Huskies from 1992- 1996. I spoke
with Eric in September 2003 about his memories of basketball as a youth,
his college career and his current lifestyle.
up in Alexandria, Louisiana with two younger brothers and two sisters. His
mom raised the family after his dad was shot and killed when Eric was only
7. When he was in the seventh grade he started playing basketball and the
junior high coach approached him about his potential, especially given his
height, 6’4” – 6’6”. By the time he was a freshman in high school, he was
already one of the starting players on the varsity team.
“In high school they used to call me the ‘sleepy giant’ because they just
never knew when it was going to be one of those nights,” he said. “The
team used to force the ball in to me. They couldn’t stop me. I’m a very
patient guy; I like teamwork. I like to have other people take the glory.
I’m still that type of person, I haven’t really changed.”
was deciding which college he would attend, Washington State University,
Temple and UConn were the schools he visited, however the University of
Southern Louisiana, Tulane, Louisiana State University and University of
New Orleans, were among others interested in him. It was Coach Howie
Dickenman (Coach D. the former assistant coach at UConn) who was actively
recruiting Eric. Coach D. started showing up at Eric’s games when he was a
sophomore and it was a good strategy because Eric decided to go to the
school that showed the most interest. His first choice would have been
Georgetown University—it was known for its big men—but the school, with
its already filled roster of tall players, did not recruit Hayward.
most memorable times at UConn were when he was a senior. The team had its
most successful season, up to that point, in his final year, when they won
the Big East Championship against Georgetown.
graduated in four years with a degree in Sociology. His education was very
important to him, as exemplified by the fact that on a game night when
they would get back home at 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM, he would still
consistently attend his early morning classes.
college Eric took a few years off and enjoyed life, kicked back, did some
partying and had fun. When he was ready, he made the decision to play
overseas but he said he had a “shady” agent and the trip to Europe never
happened. He then tried out for the Connecticut Pride, a team in the
Central Basketball Association (a semi pro league) but nothing panned out
there, so he tried the New Haven Neptunes another CBA team. After playing
his first game, he received a phone call from his family that his brother
was sick. It was now November of 1997 and he packed up his things and left
Connecticut to be with his brother in North Carolina.
brother, Charles, was playing basketball for the University of North
Carolina and was feeling very tired. He had some tests taken and was
diagnosed with Leukemia. He was medically red shirted for his freshman
year and came back the following year after going into remission. He
played ten games that year, the team was getting ready to leave for Hawaii
which he was very excited about. But prior to leaving, he went for a
checkup and learned he was no longer in remission. He had to have a bone
marrow transplant, for which Eric was the donor, but his body rejected the
transplant, and he died in 1999.
family today is still trying to get over the loss of his brother. The
former UConn player went back to Louisiana seeking a job working with
children, but was unsuccessful. He returned to North Carolina, got a job
as a security guard, saved his money, and came back to Connecticut, where
he has lived for the last three years.
Connecticut again, he contacted Coach Calhoun. “Like a family, Coach
Calhoun will always be like a father figure to me. I still call him during
the holidays to see how he is doing. I have a lot of respect for coach.”
is 30 years old, lives in Meriden and works at a hospital, counseling
children ages 14 to 17. He has an 11-year-old son, Marquis, who lives in
Louisiana. He has a good relationship with Marquis and would like to
eventually see his child move to Connecticut. Eric is planning on staying
in the state and also hopes his mom and sister move here within the next
year or so.
often reminded of his playing days at UConn. He said that while living in
North Carolina he often had people recognize him and ask for an autograph.
“If you play basketball at UConn, you are always going to be in the
spotlight in some sense.”
plays basketball for pleasure and exercise. When not working, he enjoys
watching movies or can often be found singing Karaoke—he’s a big Lionel
UConn career, he said Coach Calhoun has mellowed out a lot. The practices
were harder when Coach D. was there. “Coach D. really worked us,” he said.
He hopes to attend this year’s Final Four if UConn is one of the teams