ANDERSON — It is difficult to imagine how life could have thrown more hurdles at Nukeitra Hayes.
It is also nearly impossible to figure out how she could have done any better about clearing those hurdles with room to spare.
Hayes is a product of Highland High School, and she recently played for the United States basketball team in the Deaf Olympics earlier this summer in Bulgaria and brought home the gold medal. The win was especially sweet since the U.S. lost a stunner four years ago to Sweden.
“We only practiced together for one week at Maryland School for the Deaf,” said Hayes in an email interview last week. “I've played with four of them while in college, I played with one while I was on a deaf club basketball team for Arizona and the rest were new, and some of us never even played together and I was amazed by our chemistry. We only had a scrimmage twice against an AAU team ... and the rest was just practice.”
It didn't seem to matter as the U.S. team was dominant.
“We only had seven games, and I started all seven games,” said Hayes. “We first faced Italy, and I did not know what to expect because I never played against anybody other than just other Americans and who were hearing, but these people were also deaf. When we played Italy, I made 13 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, and Italy themselves had a total of 19 rebounds as a team.
“Then we faced Ukraine next, and I grabbed my second double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds. They were a far better team than Italy was, but they could not keep up with us. Then we faced China, they tried their best against us, but it was too easy for us, 109-24. We took on Belarus after China. I picked up my third double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds.”