- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Washington Wizards rookie Jarvis Hayes was happy to find out yesterday that he will be a teammate of both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony at the 2004 Rookie Challenge during All-Star Weekend next month in Los Angeles.

“I’m going to go shopping,” Hayes laughed. “The game is Friday. So that’s good. We get our game out of the way quick and have the rest of the weekend.”

The 10th pick in last summer’s draft out of Georgia, Hayes has been a pleasant surprise for the Wizards in a season that has featured more lows than highs.

Hayes will play with rookies against a team of second-year players in a Feb.13 exhibition at Staples Center. Houston center Yao Ming, the No.1 pick in the 2002 Draft, will headline the team of second-year players.

Last season Washington’s Gilbert Arenas — then a member of the Golden State Warriors and eventually the recipient of the league’s Most Improved Player award — led the second-year players to a 132-112 victory on his way to being named the game’s MVP.

Once considered a spot-up shooter, Hayes has demonstrated that he can score in a variety of ways. The 6-foot-7 forward has surprising athleticism — so much so that Wizards coach Eddie Jordan thinks Hayes could do well in the dunk contest. He has even shown that he can mix it up inside with bigger players.

In back-to-back games last week Hayes pulled down 13 and 14 rebounds.

“We’ve always thought that we got a good player when we drafted him,” Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said. “We like what we got with him.”

Hayes, who has started in 32 of 43 games, is sixth among rookies in scoring (10.4 points). James, the top pick in the draft, leads all rookies in scoring (20.3).

Hayes has scored his career-high 22 points three times this season. Hayes is also a deadeye shooter from the free throw line (50 of 58 on the season), and averages 4.6 rebounds.

“He deserves it,” Jordan said of the honor. “He’s a starter in the league. He’s had his ups and downs but he certainly deserves it.”

Yesterday Hayes seemed to anticipate the selection, which will give him a spotlight in a season in where the Wizards (13-30) are not scheduled to appear on national television.

“I kind of figured it; I’m having a really solid season,” Hayes said. “I wish I could have done better but I’m thankful I made the team. I’m blessed. It’s definitely a chance to get exposed to the rest of the league. We haven’t played any nationally televised games so going out there to the big game … there are going to be a lot of people watching.”

Hayes has had some moments this season that he wishes nobody had seen, such as the 2-for-13 shooting, four-point performance in a 94-83 loss to Portland on Monday.

However, Hayes said he is not overly concerned on those nights when his shooting touch leaves him.

“The good thing is that you have 82 games,” Hayes said. “You don’t have to sit around thinking about a bad night in the NBA.”

Note — Jordan said the availability of Larry Hughes, who missed his first game of the season Monday against Portland with tendinitis in his right knee, will be a game-time decision. The Wizards play Orlando (12-34) tonight at MCI Center.

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