COLUMBIA — Josh Hayes is a fish out of water.
It’s evident in the way he plays, how he acts, and maybe most obviously, in the way he does pushups.
The senior forward lies face down on the hardwood of Rock Bridge Gym, awaiting his fate. He has just lost a shooting drill, finishing with less jump shots made than teammates Skylar Miller and Alex Henderson. As with any of these drills, there are consequences for failure.
“Twenty pushups!” assistant coach Terrell Turner yells.
Hayes’ limbs suddenly spring into action. His hands and legs spread awkwardly far apart, he flops off the ground, like a freshly caught bass bouncing wildly on the deck of a boat.
This is almost certainly not how Hayes’ gym teacher taught him to do pushups.
“Oh my God, three pushups already got me tired,” he pleads.
Seventeen to go.
Hayes, a senior forward for the Rock Bridge boys basketball team (5-0), has plenty of energy — just none for pushups. In the Bruins’ undersized rotation, Hayes is often matched up against taller, stronger opponents. Standing at 6 feet, 3 inches, the power forward position doesn’t come naturally to him. Still, he finds a way to come down with the ball.
In Hayes’ lane, dimensions are meaningless. They pale in comparison to unabated, unyielding energy.
“It’s energy — always. He rebounds well … extremely well,” Turner said. “He might not always play well offensively, but you know he’s going to be in there for you, battling, talking, moving – doing the things that he needs to do.”
Sometimes, Hayes’ pace borders on chaos. Bruins head coach Jim Scanlon can often be found urging Hayes to take a breath and slow down. Hayes admits that, with the way he plays, there can be occasional casualties.
“I’m going to go at you. You might get hurt if I’m playing harder than you are,” Hayes said, a sly smile plastered across his face.
The senior’s activity sets him apart. As the ball swings around the perimeter in practice, he darts to different openings in the lane, whipping his arms into the air like wildly swinging windmills. He calls for the ball again and again — and again.
Off the court, he maintains the same level of enthusiasm. Instead of basketball, his energy is channeled in other directions. His mouth picks up where his arms and legs left off.
“You’ll hear him. You will most definitely hear Josh,” Turner said, smiling. “If it’s quiet, he’s going to say something to make it not quiet anymore. If it’s loud, he’ll be the loudest one.”
Still, when it comes to basketball, Hayes is competitive, to put it lightly. It’s as obvious in a basketball video game as it is inside Rock Bridge Gym.
Hayes’ teammate, junior Leo Terzoupolous, knows this all too well.
“Leo has never beaten me in 2K. I beat him every time. He gets mad. He thinks I’m cheating,” Hayes said. His smile grows wider. “I even beat his dad. His dad gets really mad.”
In the middle of the lane, amongst the trees, Hayes can look like a fish out of water. After watching him play, though, it becomes clear that he can create mismatches of his own.
His uncompromising effort led to 12 points, 10 rebounds, and a Rock Bridge win against Nixa on Dec. 3 in the Norm Stewart Classic. As the season goes on, Hayes expects his energy to lead to a lot more.
“My hard work will get us there,” Hayes said. The smile is gone, replaced by steely-eyed focus. “It’ll help us get to where we’re supposed to be.”