The question made Gordon Hayward stop, smile and chuckle to himself.
"Do you feel like a veteran," he was asked on the second day of Utah Jazz training camp.
"Um ... not yet," he said.
Well, don't look now but Utah's first-round draft pick in 2010 is about to start his third season in the NBA. The 22-year-old, whose confidence has gradually begun to sync with his ability, no longer looks out of place in the Jazz's locker room or around the team's practice facility.
"It's hard to believe it's going to be three years," he said. "The time flies by really fast. But it's good to have that experience under your belt, it's good to know what to expect."
Hayward definitely knows what to expect.
And he knows what's expected of him.
Drafted in 2010, when Jerry Sloan was still the coach, Phil Johnson was the No. 1 assistant and Deron Williams was the point guard, Hayward has grown both physically and mentally. He's already come a long way since the first game of his rookie season when Williams chucked a pass at him in frustration.
Hayward has long since claimed that moment was nothing but a blip on his radar, but as someone who's been covering the Jazz since 2005 -- DWill's rookie season-- I sensed it stunted Hayward's growth. How could something like that not cause a rookie to question himself, if only at the subconscious level?
A class act from the beginning, Hayward, then just 19, handled the incident like a pro. But, really, he made his biggest strides as a player after Williams was traded later that season.
Coincidentally, Derrick Favors -- the main piece in the DWill trade -- has since become one of Hayward's closest friends on the team. The two flashed potential at the end of the 2010-11 season and showed even more last season.
They spent part of the summer as members of the USA Select team, training alongside the USA Olympic team.
Back in the winter of 2011 there were hints Hayward and Favors would soon become key pieces in the Jazz puzzle. Now, after a playoff appearance as NBA sophomores, the Select team experience and the confidence that comes from knowledge, they are key pieces to a team that will contend for a Northwest Division title and a high seed in the playoffs.
In December 2011, I used this space to write about the improvements Hayward made between his rookie and sophomore seasons. He came back to camp looking physically stronger and visually happier, but as an outside observer, I felt he lacked confidence in himself and his skills. If he could develop those, I reasoned, he'd take that next step.
In many ways last season was indeed an improvement, but his shooting numbers dropped off, mostly because he was taking more shots and playing more minutes. However, early on in training camp 2012, coach Tyrone Corbin said he wanted to see Hayward trust his jump shot and not get down on himself after a few misses.
Hayward understands the concept and clearly is doing what he can to make himself a better player, both physically and mentally.
Players don't get to the NBA level without a certain amount of confidence anyway, so to suggest Hayward didn't -- or doesn't -- believe in himself is silly. Still, there is room for improvement and that's where Jazz fans must hope another year of experience will sink in.
Hayward admitted he's in that strange area of an NBA player's career, where he is no longer a rookie but isn't quite a veteran, not like an Al Jefferson, a Mo Williams or a Paul Millsap.
"You're in between," he said. "It's kind of weird to have some of these other guys ask you what's going to happen, 'What's practice going to be like?' I was asking that (two years ago). Like I said, it's good to have that experience under your belt."
That experience has without a doubt made Hayward a better player than he was two season ago. And it'll make him better season than last.
As the start of the 2012-13 campaign draws closer, he understands what's required of him and how he can help his team.
Ask him if he feels like an NBA veteran and he'll probably still chuckle at the idea ... but there's no mistaking the more mature look in his eye.