Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
A year ago, Tyler Haws was out of basketball, except for the occasional pick-up game in the Philippines, where Filipinos would automatically deem the 6-foot-5 "giant" their center.
Now back at Brigham Young, the sophomore guard is coming up big in a different way — with impressive numbers for a returning missionary.
His 42 points Saturday against Virginia Tech were the most by a BYU player not named Jimmer since Bob Skousen had 47 in 1961, and the highest output by a Cougar sophomore in school history.
"He was special," acknowledged Hokies coach James Johnson, who saw Haws outscore his own top player — then-national scoring leader Erick Green — by 30 points that day. "He can score in a lot of different ways. He's crafty. He's smart. He's probably one of the best guards we'll play against all year long."
BYU certainly will be counting on him, especially with the Cougars (10-4) opening West Coast Conference play Thursday against Loyola Marymount (7-6) and with big man Brandon Davies nursing a high-ankle sprain.
That Haws has found his rhythm so quickly after being gone for two years is testament to the plan he, his father and coaches laid out upon his return.
He got in the weight room, avoided pick-up games for a couple of months and decided to "listen to his body" after returning in April from Quezon City, Philippines, where he was serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"He said I'm going to take this thing at a good pace but not a break-neck pace," father Marty Haws recalled. "That's why I give him credit. The pre-mission Tyler wouldn't have been able to do that. He would have been going 90 mph and trying to do it all. We said you don't have to be ready in two months, you have to be ready in six."
After 14 games, Haws etched his name in the BYU record books for scoring.
He passed his father, who was 10th all-time with 40 points in a single game.
The 42 he finished with against Virginia Tech tied him for eighth all-time with Jimmer Fredette, who also holds the BYU single-game record with 52.
Haws was half a world away during Fredette's senior season, but he was a freshman starter during the superstar's junior year when BYU went 30-6, finished No. 17 in The Associated Press poll and knocked off Florida in double-overtime in the NCAA tournament before losing to Kansas State.
"There weren't a lot of shots that year," Marty Haws said, noting that BYU also had 3-point marksman Johnathan Tavernari. "As a player, you have a choice to sulk or figure out a way to help the team win."
Haws did the latter, earning the team's most inspirational player award and setting a BYU record by making 48 consecutive free throws. He also averaged 11.3 points while starting 33 of 35 games, and his 91.7 percentage for free-throws ranked fourth best in NCAA history for freshmen.
With Fredette and steals leader Jackson Emery graduating in 2011, and Noah Harstock and Charles Abouo after last season — there was room for another scorer to emerge this season.
Enter Haws, a former two-time 5A state MVP at Lone Peak High School in nearby Alpine, Utah.
"He's always been a guy who works hard in everything he does," said senior Davies, who arrived at BYU the same year as Haws and is his roommate on the road. "When he was here, we were pushing each other. When he got back, he had the same work ethic and we've seen the results."
On Saturday, Haws was seemingly unstoppable.
He popped 3-pointers from the corner, wing and top of the arc, posted up for layups and spun to the rim to finish BYU fast breaks.
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