Marquez Haynes’ first battle in international basketball didn’t happen during a game.
Marquez Haynes’ first battle in international basketball didn’t happen during a game.
It didn’t happen in the weight room or on the court.
His first battle was trying to digest French cuisine.
“I was having a lot of stomach aches,” Haynes said. “The doctors told me it’s really common. I just have to get used to different ingredients and stuff like that.”
Haynes hasn’t even ventured to the more exotic side of the French menu.
“I haven’t even tried anything too off the wall yet. I’m scared,” Haynes said with a chuckle. “I haven’t had any escargot or snails or anything like that.”
His apprehension to French food might be the only thing that has rattled the former UTA basketball star. Haynes has been in France since August, when he signed with the French club Chalon after graduating from UTA in May.
The club has been playing in France’s top league – Pro A – since 1995 and constitutes as the next step in Haynes’ path to the NBA. Even though he’s only played one game, so far for Chalon, make no mistake – the NBA is his dream.
“I’m basically over here to have a good year and try to make it back to the states as soon as possible,” Haynes said.
A dream to fulfill
The biggest step for Haynes’ NBA journey may have been this past summer playing in the NBA Summer League, but the path started much earlier than that.
“Ever since Marquez was in maybe, first or second grade, in our family it’s been known that he was going to the NBA,” his mother, Angela Haynes said. “We were all very focused on that.”
As Marquez worked his way from junior high to Irving High School and then to college, Angela and the rest of the Haynes family accepted that the NBA was the only place Marquez would ever be.
“It was almost like an unspoken thing with him,” Angela said. “To me, it was always just a given. I never even thought about it any other way because that was just his attitude about it.”
“There is no reason for me to give up on my dream of the NBA. I’m 100 percent confident that I can play at that level.”
former UTA basketball star
After earning his way as a top 150 recruit out of high school, according to Rivals.com, Marquez went to Boston College. There, he only started in three games and had a limited role in the offense.
Haynes transferred from Boston College to UTA in 2007, and the dream appeared to be in grasp again. Over the course of two seasons, he re-wrote almost every school record in the books. He totaled 661 points his senior year, the most in a single-season in school history.
His 22.8 scoring average that year was the third-best in the NCAA last season, and he picked up numerous collegiate awards including Southland Conference Player of the Year and All-American Honorable Mention.
The Detroit Pistons took note of all that was going on, and offered Marquez a chance to play with their NBA Summer League team, a place where rookies and undrafted players get a chance to make their mark with a team.
“We were pretty good actually,” he said. “It was good experience. It proved to myself that I could definitely play on that level.”
He scored in double figures in the last two games and averaged 8.3 points per game in the summer league with only 19 minutes played per game. He said what was important to him was that he proved himself to the Pistons.
“The Detroit Pistons told me after summer league that there was no doubt in their minds that I will one day play in the NBA,” he said. “It was just a matter of timing.”
Without a guaranteed roster spot with the Pistons, Haynes had a choice: go to training camp without a secure job or play overseas.
He received multiple offers from teams in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel and France’s Elan Chalon. He decided to take Chalon’s offer after the team scouted him over the summer.
“Basically, if I would have waited, I would of lost a lot of money,” he said. “I would have had to turn down some overseas offers to wait around. I took the guaranteed situation where I was on a European team that wanted me and knew my game well.”
New game, new faces, new country
Marquez not playing in the NBA was the last thing on Angela Haynes’ mind, let alone playing in a different country across the Atlantic.
“I didn’t like the fact that he was going to be so far away,” she said. “I knew he would be able to play ball, which was always his dream, so I just kind of accepted the fact that he was going to play ball.”
More than 5,000 miles away and seven hours ahead in Chalon-sur-Saône, France, Marquez had to adjust to multiple things: a new country, language, food, culture and even a different breed of basketball.
“It’s different,” he said. “I’ve been here almost two months. I’m pretty well-adjusted now. The language was probably the biggest thing.”
Haynes said he isn’t taking lessons but is picking up the language through his teammates and coaches. He said the language barrier so far hasn’t impeded any progress he’s trying to make with the team.
“I’m able to understand what people are saying to me, for the most part,” Haynes said. “But I just can’t talk back to them well. I’m still trying to get that down. I’ve done a pretty good job of understanding what people are saying.”
The first couple of weeks were the toughest, Haynes said. The lack of familiarity with anything bothered Haynes right after he moved. He spends much of his free time playing video games and using the Internet. But now he’s grown more accustomed to the layout of the town and it’s people, and has even ventured out to Paris.
Marquez hasn’t been alone through it all, so to speak. He’s been in contact with his mother and father via phone and Skype video calls. For Angela, talking to her son almost instantly helped her and Marquez transition into this stage of his life.
“We talk on the phone quite frequently,” she said. “Even though he’s so far away, I feel like he’s close, because I can still contact him whenever I need to.”
Once Marquez adjusted to his new lifestyle and culture, he had to adjust to the one constant throughout his life: the game itself. Haynes said international basketball has a different ebb and flow, mainly because of how the game is officiated.
“Out here you can get away with a lot more in the paint,” he said. “When you go to the rim, they don’t really call body contact fouls.”
Haynes said the contradiction is that the referees call the game much tighter out on the perimeter. Being a perimeter player himself, he said he’s had to tweak his game.
“On the perimeter you can’t really touch anyone, but at the rim it’s really physical,” he said. “I’m still adjusting. We’ve only played eight preseason games and one regular season game. I still have a lot to learn.”
Getting better to come back
While Haynes impressed NBA scouts and representatives during his summer league stint, that doesn’t mean there weren’t any holes in his game that league officials wanted to see Haynes improve upon before he returned.
Haynes said his main goal is to be able to run an offense and make pick-and-roll situations crisper. As a point guard at UTA, Haynes did almost all of the scoring himself. The league knows he can score, but now they want to see if he can make his teammates score too.
“I worked on my pick-and-roll and decision-making along,” he said. “The NBA has so much pick-and-roll. The NBA people want to see more of me with the ball in my hands, making decisions.”
UTA basketball coach Scott Cross keeps up with Haynes through Facebook and the occasional phone call. He still believes Haynes will get to the NBA.
“He’s relentless in his work ethic,” Cross said.
Last season, former UTA forward Tommy Moffitt broke his foot less than halfway through the season, the team went away from a lot of pick-and-roll situations and just let Haynes create.
“I think what NBA scouts are going to look for is how he’s using the pick-and-roll,” Cross said. “He’s going to grow in that area with what the reads are. Once he learns all the finer points of the pick-and-roll, that’s when he’s going to make a push for the NBA.”
Food for thought
Haynes’ early stomach problems did not sit will with his mother. Unable to send any hot meals to Marquez, Angela did the next best thing.
“I’ve been sending him American foods,” she said. “A couple of weeks ago I sent him 60 pounds of food and about a week ago I sent him a little bit more.”
The list of food would make any dorm-bound college student proud: Velveeta macaroni shells, pancake mix with syrup and Kool-Aid. But Marquez said his stomach might be adjusting to France.
“Their bread and cheeses are really good,” Haynes said with confidence. “That’s real popular here: the breads, cheeses and wine.”
He added he knows his game is soon to follow, and after that, he’ll be in the NBA.
“There is no reason for me to give up on my dream of the NBA,” he said. “I’m 100 percent confident that I can play at that level.”