PROVO — As a general rule, it takes players awhile to get acclimated to playing basketball at a high level after serving a mission.
But BYU has been blessed with two returned LDS missionaries who have been exceptions to that rule. Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth have shaken that returned missionary stereotype the past two seasons.
Last year, Haws led the West Coast Conference in scoring in the months following his mission. This year, Collinsworth is averaging 14.3 points, eight rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for the Cougars.
“Kyle’s effect on our team this year is every bit as consistent as Tyler had on our team the year before,” said coach Dave Rose. “Both of them have had big impacts coming back off their missions. If you look back at the history of our program, over the years of returned missionaries, that’s a little bit abnormal. Usually, returned missionaries come back and they kind of fit into the system and their impact is later. But both of these players have had an immediate impact.”
What is it about Haws and Collinsworth that has allowed them to play so well so soon after missionary service?
“I just believe they are special guys, players who played on really good teams before they left (for missions), got a great lesson from great players, and on their missions, they just knew what it would take when they came home because they had such a positive experience their first year and learned from some really good players,” Rose said.
Asked how he has helped Collinsworth with his transition back to basketball, Haws said, “You’ve got to give all the credit to him. He’s done a really good job of getting in shape and staying in shape.”
“As the season’s gone on, Ty and I are getting closer and closer in our relationship,” Collinsworth said. “We talk a lot, and we’re team captains. He tells me to listen to my body and be smart. It’s been great advice.”
A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: BYU will play at the 6,150-seat Spanos Center at Pacific for the first time ever Thursday (9 p.m. MST, ROOT).
The Cougars say playing in an unfamiliar arena isn’t a big deal.
“We have a practice and a shootaround in there,” Haws said. “We’ve played in different venues this year, too. We have that experience. We’ll be ready to go.”
Rose said he’s never been to Stockton, Calif. It's the home of Pacific, which joined the conference this season.
“It will be the first time for us,” he said. “It kind of reminds us of two years ago, when we made our first visit to quite a few venues in the league. We’re looking forward to it.”
On Saturday, BYU visits Saint Mary’s. The Cougars are winless (0-3) at McKeon Pavilion.
COLLINSWORTH ON THE OLYMPICS: While Collinsworth served a mission to Russia, having returned last spring, he said he hasn’t had much time to watch the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“I watched ice skating, that 15-year-old Russian girl,” Collinsworth said. “She did an awesome job. That was pretty cool. That’s all I’ve watched.”
Collinsworth said he’s cheering for both Team USA and Russia, and added that where he served in Russia is nowhere close to Sochi.
“I was probably closer to you guys than Sochi,” Collinsworth said.