PROVO — During his days at Lone Peak High, where he earned the title of Utah's Mr. Basketball, the recruiting book on Tyler Haws said the kid simply filled up a stat sheet.
In an 81-66 Mountain West Conference win over Wyoming on Wednesday night, Haws' stats shot out like neon.
Haws led the Cougars with a career-high 24 points. He was smooth, tricky good and put it on the line from start to finish.
And like most games during this, his freshman year as a starter for the Cougars, Haws chalked up numbers all across the board. Haws converted 8-of-12 shots, made 4-of-5 treys — the rest of the Cougars were 2-for-13 from 3-point range — finished a perfect 4-of-4 from the foul line and hauled down a team-high six rebounds.
Haws' consistency, especially with a unique midrange jumper, is making a solid case for him as Mountain West Freshman of the Year.
Haws and San Diego State rookie Kawhi Leonard, a 6-foot-7 forward who had 16 points and 11 rebounds in a win at Utah on Tuesday, should battle it out for the MWC honor. Both are ranked among the league's top 14 scorers, and their wares were front and center this week in the Huntsman and Marriott Center, respectively.
Against the Cowboys, Haws carried the Cougars — who, as the NCAA's top free throw shooting team, struggled at the line (21-of-30) and had star Jimmer Fredette quietly score 11 points.
When Haws blocked Arthur Bouedo's shot, took it out of the air and then raced down the court for a cripple, he put the Cougars up 68-54 with 6:36 left. He was key in a 15-3 Cougar run that lassoed the Cowboys in the second half.
Ho-hum. Routine Haws.
His secret? Tireless preparation. He's got a fanatical work ethic, say those who know him.
His grandfather remembers one day during Tyler's sophomore year when his father, former Cougar star guard Marty, left town and couldn't join Tyler in the gym for an early workout session. So, Tyler called Grandpa.
"I joined him that morning; he ran without stopping for an hour and a half and missed three shots," said Ralph Haws.
Dave Rose witnesses it every day.
"I think the main thing is he's just a relentless competitor. He plays so hard. He also has a special gift to know what a team needs on certain nights. He's scored big for us, he's rebounded big for us," Rose said.
"Defensively, he's figured out our system and can play very effective in our system. There are times he gets to the free-throw line and finishes games for us. If you talk about the things he does for us in this stage of his career, we're pretty impressed."
He should be. One of his best weapons is that pesky midrange jumper. In a game players push to finish off the dribble or hang back and launch bombs, Tyler Haws deliberately singled out the 8- to 12-foot shot as his personal target to perfect.
"It's like a lost art," said Rose. "He has so much confidence in his ability to get space, either by showing the ball on a pump fake, dribbling and pulling up, and he's got a real quick release.
"If you watch him over the years, how much time he's spent in the gym, probably with his dad Marty, hours and hours. His grandfather, his brother. It hasn't just happened. It's happened because he's put the time in."
"I think he's gonna eventually be the player of the year in this league," said Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer after the Cowboys' loss.
"I think he's really good. I'm really glad he's going on a mission next year. He's really good. He really is a very underrated rebounder, and we knew that coming into the game. (He) gets his hands on a lot of balls, and when he can consistently knock down 3s, he's really hard to guard.
"I think he's got the best midrange game of anyone I've seen since (former BYU star) Travis Hansen. He reminds me of Travis Hansen when I was here before. He's a very good player."
Haws, a humble man, doesn't talk much about himself. But he did reveal his game agenda.
"I try to get a little bit of everything," Haws said. "It's just something I've done ever since I grew up playing. You can't be a one-dimensional player. Some nights, depending on where the team needs you, you need to come up in different spots. I try to be consistent in that way. Try to be seen in many parts of the game."
On Wednesday, Haws was certainly seen.
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