- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

RICHMOND — Jarvis Hayes doesn’t hesitate when discussing the last seven months of his life, most of them without basketball.

“Oh, my God, it’s been tough. Real, real tough,” said Hayes, who missed the end of last season because of a broken right knee cap.

“I’ve never gone that long in my life without playing basketball. The good news is that’s behind me now. I can’t change what happened. I have told myself that I can only control what I can control. I’ll let the rest take care of itself. If I do the best that I can do to control my body, my mind and my actions, I think I’ll be happy with the way things turn out.”

For Hayes, the 10th pick overall by the Washington Wizards in the 2002 draft, that hasn’t always been the case.

Tabbed as the starting small forward at the start of last season, the 6-foot-7 Hayes made just 22 starts last season and played in just 54 games. His second NBA season came to an end when he cracked his right knee cap against Sacramento on Feb. 27.

His rookie season also ended prematurely because of injuries, although he earned all-rookie second-team honors after averaging 9.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 70 games.

Today, after a long summer committed almost entirely to rehabbing and strengthening his knee, Hayes labels himself “about 97 percent” ready with the start of his third season a little less than a month away.

Hayes, who can play either small forward or shooting guard, wants to be a starter again. However, the Wizards are stacked at small forward with 6-11 Jared Jeffries, who started 71 games last season, and Caron Butler, who was acquired during the summer along with Chucky Atkins for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan has told all three players the position is up for grabs. He has told the media the starter opposite Antawn Jamison will emerge during training camp.

Making the competition even more fierce is the fact that both Butler and Jeffries are in the last year of their contracts. Meanwhile, Hayes is waiting to hear from the Wizards whether they will exercise their option on him for a fourth year.

Hayes and Butler also are in the running to start at shooting guard along with Antonio Daniels.

While that might cause some friction among the players eventually, Jordan is enjoying it right now.

“This is what training camp is all about,” Jordan said. “I’ve got some very talented guys competing. Somebody is going to have to start, and we’ll figure that out. The guys who don’t start are going to be in the rotation, so it’s a good thing.”

Jordan has seen no carryover with Hayes and the injury.

“He is right there with everybody else. He hasn’t skipped a beat,” Jordan said. “He is taking his shot, banging, and he’s as athletic as he was before. He’s right there. It’s a credit to our trainers and our doctors that he is where he is.”

While being a starter is what Hayes wants, he knows nothing is guaranteed. He also knows the competition is good for him and the Wizards.

“It’s a good situation for us,” Hayes said. “Whoever wins the job we are going to be a better team for it. Do I want to start? Of course I do. But if I have to come off the bench I’m willing to do it because either way we’re going to be a deeper team.”

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