Black History Month: Elvin Hayes reflects on how culture has changed

Hayes and Don Chaney were the first black basketball players at the University of Houston

HOUSTON – When people think of Elvin Hayes, they often think of the famous "Game of the Century" held in the Astrodome against UCLA in 1968.

If only they knew what Hayes had to go through to get there.

Hayes and Don Chaney were the first black recruits of legendary coach Guy Lewis at the University of Houston.

"Knowing that they had never had any blacks, and didn't have any black students here, I had a real difficult time adjusting," Hayes told KPRC 2.

Hayes was shy, introverted and extremely close to his mother. He knew leaving for Texas would be tough. Even the car ride to get from his home in Rayville, Louisiana to the University of Houston was terrifying.

"That was the scariest moment," Hayes said. "Coach brought his son Terry and his daughter, and that just didn't happen. You don't ride in the back with a white girl and a white boy, and you're sitting up there talking to them."

Once Hayes got on campus, things were intimidating.

Hayes had certainly experienced racism, but this was a different kind. The same students that cheered him on from the stands wouldn't sit next to him in class. Hayes remembers a student shaking so badly that he and Don Chaney thought she had a medical issue. Hayes asked her what was wrong.