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Quietly, Eric Hayes has become a crucial contributor for Maryland

Maryland's Eric Hayes started as a freshman, but has been overshadowed somewhat by classmate Greivis Vasquez.
Maryland's Eric Hayes started as a freshman, but has been overshadowed somewhat by classmate Greivis Vasquez. (Jonathan Newton/the Washington Post)
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By Mike Wise
Friday, March 19, 2010

There is but one question to ask Kendall Hayes, the father and former coach of Maryland senior Eric Hayes, already a basketball lifer at 22:

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Has your son ever had a tan?

"Well, he's no Kiki Vandeweghe or anything -- I don't think he ever had a tan," Kendall Hayes said of the former NBA player and coach of the New Jersey Nets, who looks as if he has yet to go outside in his life.

"What's the saying: 'The sun doesn't shine in the gym'?" Kendall added. "Yeah, Eric is a gym rat. But he tans up every once in a while when we go to the beach in August."

Really?

"Okay, he gets red at first," he said, laughing. "But then it turns into a tan."

Darn. Between the silent-assassin veneer and the pasty complexion from being indoors on hardwood all the time, the dye was almost cast:

Eric Hayes was Jimmy Chitwood from "Hoosiers," resting his hands on his knees in the timeout at the end, waiting for the final play to be called. Well, okay, except he never asks his coach to take the last shot.

Greivis Vasquez beat him to it, for most of four years. The best thing about one of the great role players in Maryland history -- one of the great complementary guards competing in the NCAA tournament, a testament to every kid who gave up the rock for the larger good of the team?

He's been okay with it from Day One.

"He could've gone a lot of places in the country and been a star," Vasquez said of his teammate and friend. "That's why I respect him. Eric could be the man at a lot of schools. But he wanted to be part of us. When I really think about it, I know we wouldn't have won that many games without him."

One of the most underrated qualities about a future Hall of Famer like Scottie Pippen was his ability to understand that Michael Jordan would always be the first option on an NBA championship team. In College Park the past four years, that's also the beauty of Hayes: Through good times and bad shots, wild celebrations and wrenching losses, he has let Greivis be Greivis.


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