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Dick Harmon: In making the USA team, Tyler Haws has done the state of Utah proud

Published: Thursday, July 4 2013 4:05 p.m. MDT

Tyler Haws (front row, third from the left) poses with his Team USA World University Games teammates.

Steven Maikoski/USA Basketball

If you could build a basketball player from the inside out, send him out to dream of what he can do, and then sit back and watch it all unfold, you'd get yourself Tyler Haws.

When it comes to his game, Haws doesn’t know the moss-collecting state of inertia.

His work, dedication and love for the game continues to pay dividends.

Right now, the BYU junior is in Kazan, Russia, where he joined 11 teammates on the USA basketball team in a 96-60 scrimmage win against a Russian team Thursday. Haws had 12 points in that exhibition tuneup. After another exhibition game against Russia on Friday Haws will participate in opening ceremonies of the World University Games Saturday. He will be wearing the uniform of his country, representing the best non-professional basketball players in America against the elite of the world.

This is a dream that began many years ago when Tyler was just a tyke. He wanted to play basketball like his dad, former Cougar Marty Haws, and he did everything he could to make it happen. Back in elementary school, when many other kids were glued to video games, young Haws had a basketball in his hands. He labored through drills, shooting tens of thousands of field goals and tens of thousands of free throws.

“What you see is an athlete who is a practice machine,” said family friend Golden Holt, Orem High's head coach and the AAU coach for Haws’ younger brother, Lone Peak star TJ.

Said Holt: “There is a reason Ty fills up a box score, a reason he led the WCC in scoring and was one of the top scorers in the country last year at BYU. He paid the price a long time ago and continues to do so today. He practices his guts out every day.”

USA coach Bob McKillop from Davidson has quickly noticed Haws as a team player, an athlete that adapts well to a system and knows his strengths.

“I understand why he scored 20-plus points a game,” said McKillop. “He has a knack for putting the ball in the basket. His short-range game is superb.”

The USA team opens up World University Games pool play Sunday against the United Arab Emirates. The game will be televised on ESPNU at 5 p.m. MDT. The field of 24 teams is divided into four pools. The top two teams from each pool will advance to medal quarterfinals.

Making the USA squad is a very big deal. It marks Haws as one of the country’s elite college basketball talents. Coming off a remarkable sophomore season for the Cougars, it spices up his resume for the future. His personal data sheet already includes the citation as a two-time Utah Mr. Basketball and he is the all-time leading scorer at Lone Peak High, a national headline-making program in Utah County.

Since Haws walked off the floor in Madison Square Garden last March after BYU lost in the NIT Final Four, he’s continued a workout regime to improve his game. So what else is new?

Haws was restricted to a conservative weight room approach in 2012 when he returned from his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and two-year absence from the game. Now he’s pumping iron more aggressively. Responding to a challenge by BYU coaches to increase his range, he’s targeting improving the length of his shot beyond the arc. To react to defenders focusing on his outstanding mid-range game, he’s also worked on effective ways to finish at the rim after a move or drive.

Those who have seen all this develop from toddler to Russia are his family, especially his father Marty.

“Obviously we are extremely proud, not only to see Tyler’s hard work pay off, but also the efforts of all the coaches he’s had,” said Marty. “Everyone’s put forth quite a lot of effort. Going in, we don’t know where this will end up, but it sure is fun that he was able to make this team and represent this country in Russia.”

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