Eric Hayes spent the first two years after graduating Marylandin 2010 playing basketball in three different countries and moving closer to his ultimate goal – becoming a coach like his father, Kendall, who had coached for years in Northern Virginia and stopped to watch his son play for the Terps.
Hayes split the fall of 2010 and the winter of 2011 between professional teams in Spain and Lithuania, then played last season in the NBA's Developmental League in the birthplace of professional football – Canton, Ohio.
While Maryland backcourt-mate Greivis Vasquez has learned the business side of the NBA – splitting his first two seasons between the Memphis Grizzlies, who drafted him late in the first round in 2010 and the New Orleans Hornets, who traded for him early last season – Hayes figured he had played enough.
"It wasn't so much being hard is the reason that I stopped playing, [though] it was a definitely a grind being over there [in Europe]. You're pretty much by yourself, you don't know anyone except for your teammates, especially if you don't speak the language," Hayes said. "Just having the experience helped me out a lot, just to have that life experience. I was ready to move on to my next thing in life."
Or move back. This summer, Hayes visited with second-year Maryland coach Mark Turgeon to get advice about becoming a coach. Turgeon offered the former guard a job as a graduate assistant while Hayes studies for a master's in education.
"I am so glad that he is here," Turgeon said on Media Day Tuesday. "From Day 1, Eric bought into me being here even though he played for Coach [Gary] Williams. He loves Maryland and he loves Coach Williams, but he bought into what I am doing and decided he wanted to be a coach. I am in a position to help him become a better instructor, and he will decide over these next two years as he is in graduate school if coaching is something he really wants to pursue.
Said Hayes: "I knew that was what I wanted to do, I've been around basketball my whole life. That's what I love to do."
Hayes said that Turgeon "is a great teacher, a good motivator who really knows the game well. He's got a different philosophy than Coach Williams had. I like his offense and what he teaches. It's been great learning him so far."
Having played both guard spots, Hayes could be as comfortable working with point guards Pe'Shon Howard and Seth Allen as he is working with more natural shooting guards like Nick Faust and Logan Aronholt, a fifth-year senior who transferred from Albany.
Hayes averaged nine points while shooting better than 40 percent on 3-point shots and 87 percent from the free throw line on teams that went to three NCAA tournaments and one NIT during his career. Hayes ranks fourth at Maryland in the number of 3-point shots (196) made and first all-time in free throw shooting.
Hayes said that he has been impressed by what he has seen so far in working out with the Terps this summer in preparation for the 2012-13 season. Practice will start Saturday after Maryland Madness on Friday night.
"It's a lot of fun. Guys are working really hard. They've increased the weight training and strength training since I was here," Hayes said. "The coaches are recruiting hard, getting in a lot of young talent, bringing in a lot more size than we had when I played here. I think they've really elevated the game since I've gone. I like the direction the program is going."