Thursday, April 17, 2014
Chris Wright and Kenny Hayes played basketball together as kids, now they're teammates in the pros.
(Continued from page 1)
Chris Wright, left, and Kenny Hayes of the Red Claws are cousins, roommates and teammates and also childhood friends. They grew up in Ohio, played basketball together and also tinkered with a few wrestling moves in the basement.
Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
Chris Wright, left, who was the Red Claws’ first pick in the draft, chats with assistant coach Donyell Marshall during a recent practice. Wright and teammate Kenny Hayes are best friends and cousins.
THURSDAY: Red Claws at Erie BayHawks, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY: Springfield Armor at Red Claws, 7 p.m.
SUNDAY: Fort Wayne Mad Ants at Red Claws, 5 p.m.
The family moved, and Hayes attended Northmont High in Dayton. He was the Thunderbolts' star player, joining the varsity as a freshman. Wright stayed in Trotwood, where he starred for Trotwood-Madison High.
The games between those schools were headliners in their communities. It continued in college, where Hayes went to Miami of Ohio and Wright to Dayton. Over that time, Miami never beat Dayton, a fact Wright mentions more than once in a while to Hayes.
"It frustrated me, man," said Hayes. "I can remember the first time we played (in college), I made a move and got by him. And I said something to him on my way by. And then when I went to lay it up, I just see this big shadow coming over my head and he just took my shot off the glass.
"Yeah, he was talking trash after that."
'A DREAM COME TRUE'
The two have long admired each other's game and now they anticipate great success playing together.
"We've known each other's game for our whole lives, really," said Wright. "We click up and down the court. He can find me in transition. He knows whether to throw the lob pass or make a bounce pass.
"It's really a blessing. To be here together, playing professional basketball, it's a dream come true."
Hayes, who averaged 7.4 points and 2.3 assists in his rookie season, just admires what Wright brings to the team.
"He just does the stuff that most guys don't want to do," said Hayes. "A loose ball, rebound he's diving on the floor, he's getting after the rebound. Defensively, he's going after his guy. That's the one thing about Chris, he doesn't take plays off."
The two couldn't hide their excitement when the Red Claws drafted Wright with the third pick of this year's D-League draft. Wright had been expected to go in the NBA draft, but didn't.
Just before the D-League draft, Jennings asked Hayes what he thought of Wright.
"I told him, 'That's my cousin, you've got to get him. If you've got a chance, you've got to get him,' " said Hayes. "And when he got drafted, I got a text from Jon telling me. Two seconds later, Chris was on the phone."
GOOD COOK, GOOD MENTOR
The trash talking continues today. And not just on the court, where they still go at each other.
They're roommates. Hayes does the grocery shopping, Wright the cooking.
"He's a big talker, says he's a great cook," said Hayes.
Well, he had some lessons. Wright's mother, Ernestine Grigsby, is a nutritionist. She taught all her children – she has raised five biological children, four foster children and two children of relatives – the importance of eating and cooking well. She would often take Wright with her to work in the cafeteria at the elementary school he attended.
When he was 14, Wright got a job delivering lunches to needy children, earning the nickname, "The Sandwich Master."
"I told him he had to learn to fend for himself whenever he was out on his own," said Grigsby.
Apparently, he listened during the lessons.
"Yeah, he has proved he can cook," said Hayes. "But I won't tell him that. I'm just going to continue to give him a hard time.
"He made some chicken tenders and garlic potatoes the other night I told him they were just all right. It was actually pretty good."
Whatever happens this season, their mothers are glad they're together. Grigsby likes the fact Hayes can mentor her son on life in professional basketball. Sheila Johnson? She's happy her son is going to eat well.
"Kenny, when he was first on his own, he would call me and ask me how to cook spaghetti," she said. "So I'm glad Chris is there."
Besides, Johnson added, with the NBA trying to recover from labor strife, this is their chance to shine.
"All eyes are going to be on them," she said.
Just like old times.
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: email@example.com