Justice Hayes found a family in the Cass boys basketball program. When it came time for him to decide at what school he would continue his hoops career, that sense of family became an important factor.
Hayes found what he had been searching for at Toccoa Falls College. During his visit, Hayes loved that Screaming Eagles head coach Kevin Hall brought his kids with him. As the little ones greeted him, Hayes knew he had found the right place to go.
“It felt like the right environment,” Hayes said. “When I went there, it was very family oriented. That’s what me and my family are looking for, a home away from home.”
Following his signing ceremony, which took place days prior to graduation, Hayes expressed a sense of relief at finally locking in his future. That being said, he knows the difficult part is just beginning.
“It’s definitely a weight off my shoulders, for sure,” Hayes said. “I’ve been working hard for this moment, and I’ll continue to work to get as high as I can.”
Putting in the long hours in the gym needed to make a difference at the next level shouldn’t be an issue for Hayes.
Cass head coach Sean Glaze took over the job roughly one year ago, and his initial impression of Hayes was that he was a player with good talent who put in the time to continue getting better.
“One of the things that has always been the most impressive about Justice has been his work ethic,” Glaze said. “He’s a high-character kid, and that’s one of the things that we’re very fortunate to have is really good kids in the program. But Justice, from the first few summer practices last June, he was wanting to stay after practice to get work in and was always coachable. I’m sure the conversations he had with the coaches who were interested in him, that was one of the things that impressed them, as well.”
One of the other major things that jumps out about Hayes is his toughness, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. There were times when he got out-rebounded by the taller players in Region 7-AAAAA, but he learned how to get good position more often than not. The clearest sign of his defensive instincts and willingness to put his body on the line came in the form of taking a staggering 30 charges in 26 games.
“You’ve got some kids who are big and don’t play big, and then you have kids like Justice who aren’t necessarily gifted with the size but play with that toughness,” Glaze said. “… As a guard, wing at the college level, he’ll be a really good rebounder, because of that experience. To have a kid take 30 charges in a season is unreal and a huge testament to his toughness.”
Part of the reason Hayes was willing to sacrifice for his teammates was the camaraderie within the group. He only spent two years with Cass after transferring from Woodland, but he quickly became part of a tight-knit team.
“Really, the main thing that popped out to me over the two years was the brotherhood,” Hayes said of what he’ll remember about his time with the Colonels. “That will always be there. I was just looking for connections beyond Cass High School for the next 10-15 years, knowing I could call up one of my brothers every single day if I was having a rough time.”
It’s impressive for Hayes to be able to build such tight relationships in such a relatively small window of time. But his personality lends itself to building friendships wherever he goes.
That will certainly help Hayes at Toccoa Falls, and it would serve him well if he manages to continue his basketball playing days beyond his collegiate years.
“My parents really just told me to be kind to everybody,” Hayes said. “As I’ve done that, people have came along and built relationships around here. I’m really going to miss that. But it’s going to be the next step, and then after that another step, just have to keep pushing.”