PROVO — Marty Haws fondly remembers those early mornings.
The door to his bedroom would swing open, and from the comfort of his bed he’d hear his young son, Tyler, whispering through the darkness.
It was Marty’s wake-up call, and it happened like clockwork. Some days, Marty would think to himself in semi-amazement, “Man, here he is again.”
Together they would head to their local church gym in Alpine for a pre-dawn basketball workout. Tyler was in elementary school when these daily father-and-son outings began, and they happened because Tyler wanted to hone his hoops skills.
Marty, who starred for BYU from 1985-1990, was both happy and willing to help, whether that was to rebound for his son or teach him a new move.
“My deal with Tyler was, ‘I’ll go with you every day, but I won’t wake you up,’ ” he recalled. “I told him, ‘I have to go to work at 8, so we need to go at 6.’ It was very rare that he ever missed a day. I never had to coax him.”
Tyler would hoist up hundreds of shots — up to 800 some days — and Marty would keep track of them on a chalkboard as a tangible way to monitor his progress.
“I knew if I wasn’t working, somebody else was,” Tyler said of those workout sessions. “I wanted to go into my season knowing I did everything I could to be a better player.”
Monday, Tyler Haws, BYU’s junior guard and team captain, was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Year. Haws will lead the Cougars into the WCC tournament Saturday in Las Vegas with hopes of earning an NCAA tournament berth.
Averaging 23.5 points per game this season — good for No. 3 in the nation — Haws has led the WCC in scoring for two straight years. If he continues at his current pace, Haws is poised to dethrone consensus All-America Jimmer Fredette as BYU’s all-time leading scorer sometime next season.
But Haws didn’t become a relentless scorer without having a relentless work ethic.
“We’ve never counted on Ty doing what he’s done,” said Tyler’s mom, Tiffanie. “It’s a tribute to how hard he’s worked. He’s been determined. I think it came with him. It’s a gift. He’s willing to do hard things.”
After his BYU career, Marty played professionally in Belgium, where Tyler was born. Yet Tyler’s collegiate success wasn’t part of some grand design. At first, the Haws' hope was that he would be able to play high school basketball.
Tyler was cut from a team in the third grade, which fueled his desire to improve. Then came what Marty calls “a perfect storm of things that helped Tyler reach his potential” — growing to 6-foot-5 (Marty is 6-2), and playing for one of the best high school coaches, Quincy Lewis, who leads one of the best programs in the state at Lone Peak.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s continued in college,” Marty said. “He’s had great teammates that do so much to get him the ball. You combine that with his work ethic — that’s what will make him successful in anything he does.”
Over the years, Tyler has developed a repertoire of shots and a mid-range game that is a rarity in a world that glorifies long 3-pointers and rim-rattling dunks.
In fact, the countless hours spent in that particular church gym as a kid played a major role in shaping his game.
“We’ve chuckled over the years because our church has a ‘mid-range’ gym,” Marty said. “That’s what we call it. So many churches have small courts. The corners don’t go out to 3-point range. I don’t know how much that has played into it, but that’s where we practiced a lot.”
Former BYU player Mark Durrant, a color commentator on KSL Radio, compares Tyler to his older brother, Devin Durrant, who is No. 4 all-time in scoring at BYU.
“They’re both kind of mid-range guys,” Durrant said. “They’re at their best at about 15 feet. That’s their sweet spot. They make very difficult things look effortless. Just their ability to create space and get a shot off where no one else can, then make the shot, is really amazing to watch.”
During a five-game stretch from late January to early February, beginning with a career-high 48-point outburst at Portland, Haws poured in 170 points, an average of 34 points per game.
“Many times, you get to the end of a game and you don’t notice he has 20 points, or he has a ‘quiet’ 30,” Marty said.
Cougar guard Kyle Collinsworth has learned a lot from Tyler’s approach to the game. “He watches game film, he takes care of his body,” he said. “He’s just really good at doing the little things. That’s what separates him from everybody else.”
Haws has scored in double figures in 44 consecutive games, which is sixth-best in BYU history.
Last month, BYU coach Dave Rose hinted that some people might be taking for granted Haws’ scoring ability.
“The reason we take him for granted is because of Jimmer Fredette, and what we saw a few years ago,” said former Cougar Jeff Chatman, who was Marty Haws’ teammate at BYU in the 1980s. “Jimmer was really flashy. He shot a lot of NBA threes. He carried the team to a Sweet 16. Following Jimmer, it’s a tough act to follow. But when all things are said and done, they’re going to see that Tyler is one of the greatest players ever to play (at BYU). If he stays healthy, and continues on the pace that he’s on, I’ll put him in the top 3 with Jimmer and (Danny) Ainge.”
Ainge was BYU’s top all-time leading scorer until Fredette came along.
“Ainge’s record lasted for so long, and Jimmer came 30 years later,” Chatman said. “You think that the next time you’d see it would be a long time from now. That’s pretty incredible that we could have two players like that in one generation.”
Of course, the way Haws scores differs from Fredette’s style.
“Most of his game is based on the mid-range. He doesn’t shoot a lot of threes, but his 3-point percentage is really good,” Chatman said. “He gets to the free-throw line a lot, and he shoots a very high percentage. The mid-range game, and free throws, is where he gets most of his points.”
When games are close in the waning moments, there’s nobody BYU would rather have at the line than Haws, who is an 87 percent free-throw shooter.
“He’s always been really good for us in closing out games,” Rose said.
Besides his willingness to work, what impresses observers about Haws is the way he fights through screens, double teams and physical defense to get open for his shot.
“What he does on the court is fun for me to watch,” said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. “Watch him while you can, and enjoy every move he makes. Most of the time, I just watch him trying to rub people off and seeing people grab him and claw him and bump him and give him a hip check and all of those things. And he just keeps going like the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going. It’s a physical war for that kid to play a full game.”
It’s enough to drive a mother crazy.
“There are times when I have to take a deep breath and count to 10 because I feel like I can see myself jumping out and coming down on the court,” Tiffanie said. “It’s hard and it’s frustrating.”
For opposing coaches preparing for BYU, the No. 1 objective is stopping Haws.
“They put two or three guys on him and they know where he is at all times,” Durrant said. “For him to still be able to score consistently with that type of focus on him is really incredible.”
Lewis saw something special in Haws when Haws was in eighth grade. Haws started on the Lone Peak varsity team as a ninth-grader.
“Maybe the greatest compliment I can give him is, he is the most incredibly consistent player I have ever coached,” Lewis said. ‘There’s never a bad day. He might miss more shots one day than another, but his effort is so consistent. You put him on the floor for 30 minutes and he’s going to score 20 points. It’s just a matter of if he’s going to get 30 or 35.”
“He’s never going to give up a play and he always gives his best effort,” said former BYU star Jackson Emery, who played with Haws when Haws was a freshman. “He’s very clever in creating space for himself.”
When Haws watches basketball on television, he does so with a purpose, rewinding certain plays over and over again, looking to add a new wrinkle to his own game.
Lewis said Haws doesn’t have any sense of entitlement to him, “even with all the success he’s had. It’s really unusual. He’s always kept his feet on the ground, and he’s known who he was.”
As good as Haws is on the court, “off the court, he’s even better,” Holmoe said. “He’s an incredible leader. He’s soft-spoken, but when he speaks, the team listens. He’s admired by the rest of the athletic department because of the way he handles himself on and off the court.”
Those who know Haws say they are impressed by his down-to-earth persona and humility.
“I’ve never, ever, heard him talk about his stats or how many points he’s scored,” said Tyler’s grandfather, Ralph Haws.
As the oldest of three children, Tyler is a “great big brother,” Tiffanie said. Growing up, he would always let his younger brother, T.J., tag along. T.J. is a senior star at Lone Peak and will enroll at BYU after his mission.
On Sundays, Tyler goes home to be with his close-knit family and talk about basketball, and everything else. “It’s how he gets away from it all,” Tiffanie said.
Certainly, basketball is a family affair for the Haws family — and those many early mornings that a father and his son spent together at a small church gym have paid dividends.
“Tyler’s motto is to work hard, and good things will happen,” Marty said. “He doesn’t feel good unless he’s working hard.”
Marty remains a huge part of his son's life.
“I talk to him every day about stuff that’s going on, on and off the court,” Tyler said. “He’s my biggest mentor and my best friend. I wouldn’t be the player I am without him."