However I can help the team, I'm going to do it … My goal is to take good shots. If they go in, that's a plus. —BYU guard Tyler Haws
SALT LAKE CITY — For most returned missionaries, it takes a while to feel comfortable physically, find a rhythm, and reclaim their shooting range.
That's not the case for BYU guard Tyler Haws.
The sophomore from Alpine is riding a torrid scoring pace, coming off a career-high 32-point outing in a win over Cal State Northridge last Saturday. Haws has opened the season having scored at least 20 points in six consecutive games. It's one of the best starts in school history, and he's in impressive company. Only Devin Durrant has started a season with more 20-point games — with seven in 1983-84. Haws surpassed Danny Ainge, Kresimir Cosic and Michael Smith, who each had five.
Haws can tie Durrant's record tonight (7 p.m., MT, BYUtv) when BYU (4-2) squares off against Montana at EnergySolutions Arena. But it's not something he's focusing on.
"It's awesome when you can be put in a category like that," he said. "Our main objective is to go out and win basketball games. However I can help the team, I'm going to do it … My goal is to take good shots. If they go in, that's a plus."
Haws, who is shooting 50 percent from the floor, 41 percent from 3-point territory and 94 percent from the free-throw line, also owns the longest streak of 20-point performances for a Cougar since 2010-11, when Jimmer Fredette ended the year with 22 straight 20-point games.
"It doesn't surprise me," guard Craig Cusick said of Haws' effort this season. "I knew Tyler and I saw him after he came off his mission how he was performing. He didn't have much rust off that mission. He's playing extremely well for us. Tyler's been very productive for points this season. But he's also done other things that makes him a good player. It's not just that he can shoot the ball a lot. He does a lot of things that help us win."
So how has Haws managed to return to form so quickly after returning home from a mission to the Philippines last spring?
"I wanted to take it one step at a time, not do too much too soon. I worked hard in the summer to get my legs back and my body's feeling good right now," Haws said. "The coaches and I mapped out a plan that I wasn't going to do anything for a couple of months as far as pickup games. I'm glad I did that because I'm feeling healthy right now."
When Haws returned home, coach Dave Rose had several conversations with Tyler's dad, Marty, a former BYU star.
"He's extremely involved in Tyler's progress over the years," Rose said. "Marty had experienced his return from a mission and had an idea how he would do it if he did it again."
Tyler Haws also saw how other former Cougars, like Jackson Emery and Travis Hansen, handled coming back from missions.
"I've seen some missionaries come back and be successful and I wanted to be one of those guys," he said. "I feel like I've worked hard in the weight room and tried to get my body back. It's been fun."
When Haws played in his first pickup game after his mission, "I remember catching the ball for the first time and saying, shoot, what do I do with it? I'm feeling really comfortable right now."
Rose said Haws' "concentration" and work ethic has helped him play well, as he has helped fill a scoring void left by Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo, who graduated last season.
"A lot of it's the experience he had," Rose said. "You spend a lot of time on that mission thinking about what's going to happen when you get home. He had a plan and he was really determined how he was going to work out. Then, there was a real opportunity. You lose Charles and you lose Noah. You're not fighting against a guy that's played the last two or three years. You're fighting against guys that are in the same situation."
Rose hasn't seen any other returned missionary play at the level that Haws has to this point.
"I've seen them be in great shape, and I've seen guys come and be ready to play," he said. "But to be as effective as he's been with his scoring, he's gotten off to a much better start after his mission, after not playing two years, than he did actually coming out of high school, which is kind of unique."
NOTES: This is the first of two games BYU will play at ESA, with the other coming up on Dec. 29 against Virginia Tech. … "It's awesome," Haws said of playing at an NBA arena. "We went back and played in the new Brooklyn arena. It's a great experience. The floor's bouncy, the lights are a little brighter. It's fun." … Montana (3-1) is led by forward Mathias Ward, who averages 15.8 points per game. … The Grizzlies are shooting 49.2 percent from the field this season.
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