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BYU star Tyler Haws happy to see basketball healing typhoon victims in Philippines

Published: Sunday, July 5 2015 3:48 p.m. MDT

A Filipino man walks among debris from damaged homes at typhoon-hit Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms on record, slammed into six central Philippine islands on Friday leaving a wide swath of destruction. (Aaron Favila, ASSOCIATED PRESS) A Filipino man walks among debris from damaged homes at typhoon-hit Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms on record, slammed into six central Philippine islands on Friday leaving a wide swath of destruction. (Aaron Favila, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

On Nov. 8, Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Yolanda, smashed into the Philippines, causing widespread destruction in the provinces of Eastern Samar and Leyte.

The storm — which is considered to be the most powerful to ever make landfall — has left thousands dead and millions displaced.

Two months later, numerous cities, towns and small farming communities are still in ruins. But thanks to local and international aid efforts, many people are beginning to rebuild.

And thanks to basketball, many are beginning to heal.

Introduced to the Philippines during the American colonial period, basketball has long been the nation’s favorite sport, and now, in the wake Haiyan, it may be more popular than ever.

In several areas, some of the first structures being restored are wooden beams bearing metal backboards with net-less rims.

Pictures that have captured the country’s intense love for the game — as well as its people’s awe-inspiring ability to carry on — have spread across social media sites during the past few weeks.

BYU's Tyler Haws, right, drives for the basket past San Francisco's Mark Tollefsen during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, in San Francisco. BYU won 83-76. (AP Photo/George Nikitin) (George Nikitin, AP) BYU's Tyler Haws, right, drives for the basket past San Francisco's Mark Tollefsen during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, in San Francisco. BYU won 83-76. (AP Photo/George Nikitin) (George Nikitin, AP)

One of the most astonishing photos comes from Tacloban City, the hardest hit by the storm. It features three boys shooting hoops amid the rubble of houses, with the stranded vessel M/V Eva Jocelyn in the background.

BYU basketball star Tyler Haws, who served a church mission in Quezon City, Philippines, from April 2010 to April 2012, is closely following the situation and has seen many of the basketball-themed images.

“I think basketball does in some way help them heal and stay happy,” he said after a recent practice.

Though Haws is in the middle of the 2013-14 season, he’s trying to help survivors of the storm. In late December, he made a YouTube video in which he asks viewers to make a donation to LDS Philanthropies, which has been providing food and life-sustaining supplies to individuals affected by Haiyan.

“I did have one companion that recently emailed me back and said that they’re still struggling, so I’ve been trying to help in any way I can,” he said.

In the meantime, BYU’s leading scorer hopes basketball will continue to assist the people he loves.

“I have a bracelet on right now that says ‘Pinoy ako sa puso at isip’ (I’m Filipino in heart and mind),” Haws said. “I feel like those are my people.”

Jared Bray is a contributing writer for Deseret News and KSL. He also reports in English and Tagalog (a language he picked up while serving a church mission in the Philippines) for The Filipino Channel's nightly news program "Balitang America."

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company