- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2005

The Washington Wizards yesterday exercised their contract option on the fourth season for forward Jarvis Hayes, and they trimmed two players from their roster to get down to the league-mandated 15 players for the start of the regular season.

The Wizards released forward Hiram Fuller and guard Billy Thomas in advance of Monday’s 6 p.m. deadline for submitting the regular season roster. Undrafted rookie Donell Taylor and Awvee Storey, who split time last season between the CBA and the New Jersey Nets, both made the team.

“Jarvis is a big part of the core that we’ve built here, and we’re looking forward to watching him continue to grow as a player and as a professional,” Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said in a statement. “He’s a versatile player with a good feel for the game, nice touch on his jump shot and explosive athletic ability. We think he’s a nice fit for what we’re doing here.”

Hayes, the 10th overall pick by the Wizards in the 2003 draft out of Georgia, will become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2006-07 season should the Wizards choose not to re-sign him.

“I am excited to be a part of this team,” Hayes said. “We have a good thing going here in Washington. This feels good to be in a situation that I am comfortable in. It feels good that they made the commitment to me.”

Hayes broke his right kneecap last season, his second with the club, and played in only 54 games, averaging 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds.

He experienced soreness in that knee most of this preseason and as a result appeared in just two games. He scored 19 points in the Wizards’ 95-91 victory against San Antonio on Oct. 13, Hayes’ last appearance. Hayes said he expects to be ready for the start of the regular season at Toronto on Wednesday night.

Taylor, an undrafted rookie from Alabama-Birmingham, was expected to make the team, but Storey made the roster through an unconventional route.

Storey finished his career at Arizona State in 2002 and has spent most of his professional career with teams in South Korea and Venezuela. He played in summer leagues in the United States, trying to earn a spot in the NBA.

Storey made the most of his time with the Wizards, shining in training camp in Richmond and opening the preseason by making six of seven shots in a 14-point game against Cleveland. He has averaged 6.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in just under 18 minutes a game.

The Nets cut Storey right before Christmas last season, and he finished the season in the CBA with the Idaho Stampede.

“I thought about that every time I hit the floor with the Wizards,” said Storey, who must be on the roster beyond Jan. 15 for his contract to become fully guaranteed. “I just felt I fit in here. I like getting out on the floor and running with the guys they have here. Right now this feels great.”

Coach Eddie Jordan seemed satisfied with the roster.

“Based on what I saw in training camp, this is the roster that we want at this time,” Jordan said.

Taylor wasn’t as impressive as Storey in the preseason, averaging 5.8 points but making just 32.4 percent of his shots. Unlike Storey, he had not been through this process.

When Jordan called him into his office right before practice yesterday, Taylor admitted he was scared. He walked into the office with his head bowed and once he got the news from Jordan, he says he lit up like a Christmas tree.

“It was hard just going in the door,” Taylor said. “But once he started talking and telling me about what I needed to do to get better as a player, I felt like I was OK. There’s a lot of relief.”

Notes — Arenas returned to practice yesterday after missing Wednesday’s workout to have his right eye examined. Arenas, who suffered an abrasion one week ago today, is questionable for tonight’s final preseason game at Indiana. The Wizards expect he’ll be ready to play when the season opens next week.

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