January 10, 2024

MDCA’s Annual Basketball Tournament Pays Tribute to Nathan Hayes

2.6 min read| Published On: January 10th, 2024|

By Kyle Coppola

MDCA’s Annual Basketball Tournament Pays Tribute to Nathan Hayes

2.6 min read| Published On: January 10th, 2024|

This past weekend the Mount Dora Christian Academy Bulldogs competed in the Nathan Hayes Shootout, an annual high school basketball tournament at the beginning of the year. It appears no matter how much time has gone by, the sting of losing Nathan Hayes is still in everyone’s memories. Each MDCA player is well aware of who Nathan Hayes, was but for those who don’t, let us remind you of why this tournament is played in his honor.

(A wall in the MDCA Gym with a tribute mural of Nathan Hayes.)

Nathan Hayes was the son of MDCA basketball head coach Steven Hayes. A few years ago, Nathan would have graduated from MDCA. He was always a presence in and around the team, handing out water bottles, and cheering on the MDCA varsity basketball athletes. Nathan looked up to those who wore the Blue, Black and White colors of MDCA and wanted nothing more than to play on that very court one day.

(Nathan Hayes left sits with his father Steven Hayes.)

Those plans tragically were never to be as on September 24th, 2011, Nathan was killed in a freak accident on County Road 44 in Eustis. In an article published by Daily Commercial’s Frank Jolly in 2020 which we will link here, the report said “Steven Hayes truck had struck a tree on a very twisty and windy section of road in Eustis. Hayes moved his son to the side of the roadway and attempted to move his truck out of the road. However, Nathan was struck by a vehicle that swerved to miss Hayes truck but ultimately struck Nathan killing him.”

The tragedy has been felt ever since that day. MDCA celebrates the life of Nathan Hayes each season naming the Nathan Hayes Shootout Tournament in his honor. Through the years, the MDCA teams have honored Nathan in various ways. From dedicating basketballs, jerseys, wins, sneakers and a tribute mural wall in the gym in his honor, MDCA keeps the memory of Nathan alive and well.

(One of the many tributes in the gym dedicated to Nathan.)

Nathan represented the best in so many that came to know him. Teams who play in the tournament come to know who Nathan was. The teams are shown a video of Nathan, share a meal together and get to listen to a motivational speaker. The MDCA team wears alternate black and green uniforms for this tournament with the NH initials in tribute to Nathan.

This year’s tournament MDCA played like champions. They won the first day of the tournament with a 61-50 victory against Cornerstone Charter school and followed that up with another big win against Apopka 49-45 in the final game of the Nathan Hayes Shootout. MDCA has moved to 11-5 overall this season and are now on a three-game win streak after having beat South Sumter this week 43-39. That win against South Sumter is a quality win against an FHSAA opponent who is 8-6 this season. Very impressive and now MDCA plays Umatilla who are having perhaps the best season in 25+ years at 11-3.

(The MDCA girls varsity team also picked up a 48-22 win against Cornerstone Charter in the Nathan Hayes shootout and are currently 9-6 overall this season.)

We are so glad that MDCA keeps the memory of Nathan Hayes alive. One thing that we can all take away is that life is fragile. We must always tell the people closest to us how much we love them. We are not promised tomorrow. To all the coaches, players, volunteers, parents and faculty who are a part of this great tournament every year we say thank you and God Bless.

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About the Author: Kyle Coppola

Kyle Coppola was born in Newton, Massachusetts and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communications from Curry College in 2016. After traveling to Florida on a family vacation, he decided he could not get enough of the warm weather and made the move from snowy Massachusetts to central Florida 8 years ago.

For the last decade Kyle has gained valuable experience in social media content creation, marketing and sales, writing, video production, sports announcing and even broadcasting for local radio stations, such as FM 102.9 in The Villages and FM 91.5 in Massachusetts. Every year he volunteers at The Villages Charter High School as a play-by-play sports announcer for the football games as well as a public address announcer for the basketball games, including the annual Battle at The Villages Tournament.

Outside the office Kyle is a husband and father to two beautiful girls along with their cat. In his spare time he likes to spend time with his family, travel, play golf and swim. He is also a huge sports junkie and even bigger motorsports fan and loves to attend racing events when he can.

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