Killian Hayes idles a few feet behind the three-point line, scanning the floor, when he spots an opening. Wielding the ball with his left hand and keeping a defender at bay with his right hip, Hayes slips a dribble behind his back and blows by his man. In another bounce, he's at the top of the key, splitting the remaining guard and a wing who has rolled inside to help just a second too late.
As the two remaining bigs collapse to protect the rim, Hayes stops short. He sends a soft floater arcing over their outstretched hands. In just two dribbles, Hayes has managed to outmaneuver an entire defense, making his own lane where none had been.
Hayes, 18, has played out similar scenarios hundreds of times in his budding basketball career. But today is special because of the setting. Hayes was born in Florida. His father, DeRon, who is watching from a seat on the baseline, played forward for Penn State in the early 1990s. Killian grew up wanting to play college basketball for one of the bluebloods, but he was raised in France and turned pro at 16.
Today, at a Basketball Without Borders camp at Queens University of Charlotte, will be the first and last time he'll play competitive basketball on a college hoops court. Because next year, when his American peers are just settling in for summer NCAA practices, Hayes will be following his own path again, becoming the first American to skip high school and be drafted at 18 in the one-and-done era.
To understand how Hayes went from Florida to France, becoming a first-round lock in the process, you first have to understand how DeRon took the opposite journey.
In 1993, after three seasons at Penn State, DeRon started wondering what life after college would look like for him. He averaged 14.1 points and 4.9 rebounds during his Nittany Lions career, but he didn't know anyone who had made it to the NBA, and he didn't know if or how he could make it.
"At the end of the year, everyone was talking about: Do you have an agent?" DeRon says. "I was like, 'An agent? What did I need an agent for?' I was just thinking about playing. I didn't have anyone to mentor me. I was late to the game."
After he left Penn State, DeRon heard about an opportunity to play professionally in France. He packed his bags and began his European adventure, with no idea exactly how long it would last. He spent most of the first month stalling out an old Peugeot (he didn't know how to drive stick) and spending his entire paycheck on international calls (he didn't know the hotel was charging him). But he came away with the notion that he could make a life for himself overseas.