His latest accomplishment points to the future – a letter of intent he recently signed to play next year at UCLA. Hays, 17, has been the target of criticism his entire career for being too physical or too brash, but no one can question his work ethic, talent and dedication to a sport he loves. “Brett has played a lot in Europe and plays an aggressive, physical type of game that people out here aren’t used to,” Bonita coach John Ashby said. “His desire is something I will be able to point back to when teaching my younger players.” Hays probably would be playing football if it wasn’t for a neck injury at age 11 that prohibited him from following in his father’s footsteps. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Hays would have been a huge asset for Bonita’s football team. Hays’ dad, Jack, 53, was a defensive end at Fresno State and is a retired Sheriff’s deputy. Brett Hays scored 370 goals over his four years with the Bearcats and was All-CIF three times and MVP of Division VI in 2005. Bonita moved up to Division III this past season and lost in the quarterfinals to Damien 6-4, but earned respect from many skeptics with its success in Division VI. LA VERNE – Like it or not, Brett Hays is a winner. The Bonita High School water polo standout finished his stellar career with three CIF-Southern Section Division VI championships and four Miramonte League titles. Hays has represented the United States youth national team and development team and has played in Canada, Serbia, Croatia, Slovakia, and Mexico City. The Bearcats senior likes his chances to make the U.S. Olympic team in 2012 and intends to play professionally in Europe. Hays believes his experience in international play has played the biggest role in his success. He acknowledges he has his share of detractors, but to his credit, he’s shrugged off the negative energy and turned in one of the most dominant careers in the San Gabriel Valley in recent memory. “I am always looking for perfection in the water, and sometimes when I get frustrated I do things when I’m not thinking,” Hays said. “Sometimes when you get too intense, you don’t react the way you’d like.” Hays has unanimous respect among his peers for his incredible talent and the work he’s put into his craft. “Brett is definitely the best player I’ve ever played against in this area,” Damien standout Troy Carter said. Carter, who will continue his rivalry against his close friend next season when he plays at USC, said Hays’ size and speed makes him a unique player. Charter Oak’s Brad Beintema was the Miramonte League MVP, but he credited Hays for his improved level of play this season. “Playing against Brett made me want to work hard to try and reach his level. He played at a level above everyone else and I wanted to play like him,” Beintema said. “He is the most dominant player in the area.” Hays’ love of water polo has made it easier for the senior to surrender much of his social life because of his travels across the country and the world in tournaments representing the U.S. “I’d like to hang out more with my friends and go out and have fun, but water polo is my life and I am going to put all my energy into my training and my school work,” he said. Hays almost entirely was the focus of all Bearcats opponents. “In planning a game strategy against Bonita, I always had to figure out how to contain Brett,” Damien coach Andrew Gates said. “He is going to get his goals and can dominate a game, so I needed to come up with a defensive game plan to limit his touches.” Hays’ contributions at Bonita weren’t limited to water polo. The senior has seven school records for the swim team. “When people look back at my career, I hope they remember how hard I worked and how much I loved the game of water polo,” Hays said. “I want my teammates at Bonita to know if you work hard enough, you can achieve your goals.” Gates remembers Hays as “by far the most difficult player to stop that we had to play in the last two years from our area.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!