By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 11, 2011 1:48 PM
Craig Hayes thought it was just a cramp. So, he kept playing. Soon, he discovered he was wrong. It turned out Hayes, a senior on the Mount Olive College men's basketball team, had suffered a torn meniscus.
The Woodbridge, Va., native never really considered playing college basketball until his junior year in high school. Now, he plays both guard and forward for the Trojans.
And Hayes keeps his grade-point average about 3.0.
When you first meet the 6-foot-4 gentle giant, he may appear timid or reserved. Once you engage in a conversation with him, you see more than his basketball stats.
Hayes' quietness may account for wisdom. He's learned a lot while playing ball at Mount Olive and hopes to apply those lessons once he finishes his double-major in computer information systems and business management.
"One of the most important things I learned from Coach (Joey) Higginbotham is that basketball is temporary," said Hayes. "He encourages me to prepare for life and use the skills I learn from the game in the workplace. I believe that playing sports will help me in my business career because it has taught me patience, leadership skills, and an effective way to communicate."
Hayes also credits the sport with teaching him how to handle constructive criticism. Higginbotham considers Hayes a very motivated and goal-oriented person.
"Craig understands the value of hard work," said Higginbotham. "He has made me a better coach."
There are highs and lows when playing any sport and Hayes has experienced both. Last year's meniscus injury led to a medical redshirt and sidelined him for a year.
"Coach advised me to take the time to fully rehabilitate so my last year will be a good one," said Hayes.
It was good advice because over the summer Hayes participated on a NCAA-sanctioned Kenner League competing against NBA players.
Hayes admits to being a little star-struck.
"When we went into the locker room, I saw Jeff Greene from the Boston Celtics and Greg Monroe from the Detroit Pistons, and I knew it was going to be an interesting game," said Hayes.
It was all business during tip-off where Hayes stood next to Greene. Hayes made his first shot, then a second. He went on to score a game-high 12 points leading his team to a 58-53 victory.
"It felt good to make my parents, my brother and my sister proud," said Hayes.
Hayes has his game back and this year he is captain of the team, a role he takes seriously.
"I feel my role as a captain is to lead by example, to be role a model for the team and to push my teammates past their comfort levels in order for us to reach our full potential," said Hayes. "It takes a team to win a championship, not individuals."
Hayes went on to talk about his experience on the men's basketball team at MOC.
"Being part of the men's basketball team has been the most positive thing I could have ever done in my life," said Hayes. "The decision to become a Trojan has given me the opportunity to meet new people, interact with different personalities on a daily basis, enhance my communication skills, and accelerate my personal development. When I first came to Mount Olive College I was very quiet and kept to myself. I went to class, to practice and then back to my dorm room.
"Mount Olive College has sculpted and developed me into a confident strong individual, and I have built long term relationships with professors and athletes."
Hayes is a Merit Scholarship recipient and also receives a basketball scholarship, both of which have helped soften the financial burden of attending college.
"Every time I step in the classroom or onto the basketball court I am thankful to the people who make these scholarships possible," said Hayes. "I've worked even harder in the classroom to gain as much knowledge and experience to positively position myself for a successful future after basketball."
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