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Wednesday, September 15, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 17

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UNC Charlotte's Charles Hayward loses battle with leukemia at age 21

Cougar Sports Services

Charles Hayward never got a chance to live up to his billing as the top basketball recruit ever for the North Carolina Charlotte 49ers. Leukemia changed those plans, and now the disease has taken his life.

Hayward, 21, died late Sunday at the UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill.

Hayward was admitted to the hospital in April and underwent a bone marrow transplant. The donor was Eric Hayward, his older brother and a former basketball player at Connecticut.

According to UNC Charlotte officials, complications arose in July when Hayward's body began rejecting the transplant, and his condition worsened considerably Thursday. Teammates, family members and coach Bobby Lutz spent the weekend visiting him in the hospital.

"We're all very deeply saddened by Charles' passing," Lutz said. "I'm personally thankful for the opportunity to have known him. He was one of the most courageous young men I've ever had the pleasure of being around, and he was an inspiration to all of us for the past two years and even in his passing."

The school has planned a memorial service for this afternoon at Halton Arena, the 49ers' home court. A funeral is scheduled for Friday in Hayward's hometown of Alexandria, La.

When Hayward came out of Louisiana in 1997, he was the highest-rated recruit ever to sign with the 49ers, one of UH's Conference USA rivals (Hayward chose UNC Charlotte after being recruited by Arkansas, Memphis and UH).

But UNC Charlotte's coaching staff noticed in preseason drills that the 6-8, 210-pound Hayward seemed constantly tired, so they sent him for a series of tests that showed the presence of acute myeloid leukemia.

Hayward missed his freshman season while undergoing a series of chemotherapy treatments. The 49ers, meantime, advanced to the NCAA Tournament, dedicating their season to Hayward and keeping a plastic seat cover with his name and jersey No. 45 on their bench at games, symbolically reserving a spot for their teammate.

Hayward was declared in remission in April 1998 and cleared to rejoin the team. He celebrated by getting a tattoo of a wolf with the word "Survivor" inscribed on his right arm.

He regained the 70 or so pounds he lost during chemotherapy and spent countless hours in the weight room, bulking up to 220 pounds and working himself back into playing shape.

Hayward played 14 minutes in last year's season opener, scoring two points, grabbing four rebounds and blocking two shots. In the fourth game, Lutz increased Hayward's playing time to 24 minutes, and he responded with eight points, seven rebounds and a school freshman record six blocks.

But 10 games into the comeback, routine blood tests showed the leukemia had returned, and Hayward spent the Christmas holidays back in the hospital for more chemotherapy.

Hayward never played against Houston.

As the 49ers' season went on, the sleeve on the bench returned, and the team won the C-USA championship to again advance to the NCAA Tournament. But unlike the previous year, when Hayward occasionally felt well enough to join his teammates for games while watching in street clothes, he spent most of his remaining days in the hospital.

Hayward's final averages were 15.9 minutes, 2.9 points and 3.5 rebounds.

In addition to his brother, Hayward is survived by his mother, Janice Harrell; two sisters, Janell and Tiffany Hayward; another brother, Tony Hayward; and his grandparents, Charles and Ida Mae Hayward.

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