By CODY WORSHAM
Tiger Rag Editor
When Kieran Hayward put pen to paper Wednesday morning – Wednesday evening, for those of you on Australian time – he made official what he knew from the moment he arrived on LSU’s campus for his visit last weekend.
Hayward is a Tiger.
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard with length, leaping ability, and a pure stroke from downtown burst on the scene last summer on an AAU tour with AUSA Hoops, an Australian club that brings prospects to the U.S. for a three-tournament showcase. Hayward arrived in the states a relatively unknown prospect to most college, but LSU assistant David Patrick, through a tip from Hayward’s coach, fellow Aussie Rhys Murphy, was more than aware of Hayward’s talents.
Watch Hayward’s highlight tape, and you’ll see Patrick and LSU director of basketball operations Charlie Leonard – then an LSU assistant – constantly watching Hayward in the background. As programs like Stanford, Wisconsin, and Arizona State flocked to the court to catch a glimpse, LSU was already well-established with Hayward.
With the help of Murphy and Steve Ivimey, also of AUSA Hoops, Hayward whittled down his visits to Rider, St. Joseph’s, and LSU, trying to balance the level of program – low-, mid-, and high-major – to see what was the best fit. By the time their week in America was done, Kieran and his mother, Juliana, reported back to Murphy and Ivimey with their findings, findings that favored LSU.
“We gave them the comparisons of all the schools and our opinion on it,” Kieran said. “It just seemed like LSU was the perfect fit for me. There wasn’t even a single thing I was unsure about. Everything was perfect. The people there are really amazing, the facilities are great. It was ticking the boxes left right and center.”
First was the academic box. Hayward hopes to major in kinesiology with an economics focus, and LSU was the only school of his visits that offered his degree of choice. Add in LSU’s massive academic center for athletes and tutoring programs, and that box was checked with permanent marker.
“My eyes were popping out of my head,” Juliana Hayward said of the academic center. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to get myself a degree and come to school as well.’”
“Everything we saw was breathtaking,” added Kieran. “Coming from Australia, we don’t’ have any universities close to that standard.”
Next box on the list was Kieran’s fit, both on and off the floor. With Keith Hornsby leaving after his senior season, LSU needed a shooter on the wing, and Hayward can fill it up with the best of them.
“There some very big shoes to fill, I reckon,” Hayward said of Hornsby.
But there’s also the fit away from the court. Hayward was hosted by Brian Bridgewater, and raved about his positive experience with the players. Mom was also impressed, both with the players and the staff, feeling so comfortable as to let Kieran know he could take the family’s two cats to Baton Rouge with him, an offer he politely declined.
“Kieran really got along well with all of them,” she said. “Great blokes, great mates. That relationship has to be easy, and he felt very welcome. For a mother sending her son across the sea to America, you think about all those things. It felt like home. I’ve got no doubts he’ll be in great hands with all the coaches. They’re the A team.”
LSU offered Hayward, who has finished his schooling in Australia, the opportunity to enroll in January, allowing him to redshirt and practice with the team for a semester before his freshman season. But he said he’s “80 percent sure” he’ll remain in Australia, training with pro teams in Sydney ahead of a summer arrival at LSU.
In the meantime, Hayward is trying out for state teams in an effort to make it into the Australian national team picture. Regardless, Hayward and his cats are squarely in the picture for the future of LSU hoops.
— Kieran ⚡️Hayward (@KieranHayward0) November 11, 2015