Six games in her professional career with the Atlanta Dream, Tiffany Hayes still finds herself connected to UConn – in the way most normal students remember college. After practice Thursday in Atlanta, before Friday’s game against San Antonio, Hayes was scheduled to officially wrap up life as a collegian.
“I had to miss graduation [after drafted April 16 in the second round by the Dream],” Hayes said Thursday. “But I’m taking my remaining two finals. It wouldn’t have been official [graduation] anyway.”
Once that’s done, her transition to professional life will be unimpeded.
“It’s good, it’s been fun and I am learning a lot, as well, from teammates and coaches,” Hayes said. “It’s kind of different in some ways, but I feel fortunate to have come here from where I did [UConn]. It’s not as hard of a transition for me.
“I will say it has helped not to having to worry about two things at the same time; going to class, study halls and having homework to do [while trying to excel at UConn]. Being a professional player means just meeting with the coaches, practicing and playing the games. It definitely makes it a lot easier to focus just on one thing.”
In her first six games, Hayes is averaging 14.5 minutes, 4.7 points but is shooting only 25 percent from the field.
“I feel I am making progress, but there still is a long way to go,” Hayes said. “I can see what it is I can bring to this team, how I can help it. I just can’t wait until we all jell. “When I play depends. Sometimes I’ll get in at the end of the first half, sometimes at the beginning of the half. It varies. I’m being used for my defense and driving and kicking the ball out [on offense].”
She is living alone in a one-bedroom apartment in the same complex her teammates stay in downtown Atlanta.
“It’s around a lot of things, like there’s a Target within walking distance,” she said. “And my family is only about five hours away [in Lakeland, Fla.,} which is a lot different than it was at UConn.”
Hayes says she has most enjoyed her welcome to Atlanta, where she is teammates with two former UConn players, Jessica Moore and Ketia Swanier.
“After the games, I’ve been given the chance to be one of the players that greets people,” Hayes said. “It’s interesting to see how they’ve reacted to me, having just come to the team. It makes me feel good to see that; people smiling, interested in taking a picture with me, wanting my autograph. It’s nice to know you can make people happy just by being a good person.”
Sunday, Hayes will back in Connecticut for the first time since the draft when the Dream play the Connecticut Sun at 5. There to see her will be many of the UConn teammates she left behind. A bunch of players are coming to the game, just like they did last Friday when Maya Moore returned with Minnesota.
“It’s going to be fun to play against some of my old teammates [Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery and Kalana Greene] and see some others after the game,” Hayes said. “They are all coming out. I’m anxious to be there.”
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