WASHINGTON - It's a good thing Jarvis Hayes has a healthy sense of humor, not to mention a pretty good sense of self, or he might take this getting ignored thing to heart.
It's not often a first-round NBA draft choice, not to mention the 10th overall selection, can be virtually ignored, but Hayes, a 6-foot-7 swingman, has managed that feat in the past two weeks.
Hayes was immediately upstaged not once, but twice on draft night last month, when the Wizards first signed veteran guard Jerry Stackhouse to a contract extension, then took Maryland point guard Steve Blake with their second-round selection.
In basketball parlance, Hayes, who left Georgia after his junior year, got boxed out for attention by the high-priced return of the team's best player and the story of a hometown hero trying to make the local team.
"I've been under the radar, so it's nothing new. I'll just wait for my time, I guess," Hayes said with a knowing smile after a minicamp practice last week.
Hayes and a group of rookies, younger veterans and free agents will begin play today at the Reebok Pro Summer League tournament at the University of Massachusetts campus in Boston. The Wizards will play six games this week, against similarly constructed squads from the Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and San Antonio Spurs.
The session concludes Sunday, when the Wizards meet the Cleveland Cavaliers and first overall draft pick LeBron James in the final game. It's not clear, though, whether James will play against Washington, as the Cavaliers may pull him out of the final games.
Even so, Hayes is likely to be overshadowed in Boston, but, again, it is par for the course. After transferring to Georgia after his freshman year at Western Carolina, Hayes led the Southeastern Conference in scoring in his sophomore season but was shunned as league Player of the Year in voting conducted by coaches, in favor of Alabama's Erwin Dudley.
Last season, Hayes was the only unanimous first-team All-SEC selection, but in the wake of an academic fraud scandal that cost coach Jim Harrick his job, Georgia officials pulled the Bulldogs out of the SEC tournament and a likely berth in the NCAA tournament.
That decision not only pushed Hayes into the draft, but also hurt him in getting general managers and scouts to notice his ability to play in postseason pressure situations.
"It was definitely frustrating, for us to have the season we had, and I thought it was a pretty good season," Hayes said of Georgia's 19-8 record. "We would have got a pretty high seed in the tournament. For all of that to come to an end, with myself included and [teammate] Ezra Williams and all the other guys who had a chance to play professional ball, it kind of hurt us. It definitely hurt Ezra, because he didn't get drafted. I was off the radar until I started working out for teams, and that brought my stock back up."
Hayes, who shot 43 percent from three-point range last season and 50 percent from the field overall, lit up one pre-draft workout after another with his shooting prowess. In Washington, Hayes hit 15 of 16 shots in one stretch, and the Wizards didn't hesitate to grab him when their slot came up on draft night.
"[His workout performance] got my attention," said new Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, who immediately compared Hayes in ability and even facial appearance to former Wizards guard Mitch Richmond, whom Jordan coached in Sacramento.
"That's a pretty good comparison," Hayes said. "I just have to live up to it."
Hayes may not draw notice from a lot of people in Boston, but Jordan and his staff are certain to be paying attention. Hayes will likely start with Blake, Juan Dixon, Kwame Brown and Etan Thomas during the Boston games and be given every chance to shine.
"They just want me to come in and contribute," Hayes said of the Wizards" coaches. "They don't have to tell me that. I know they brought me in to help the team right now, to give energy at practice and have a good summer and have it translate into the season."