TJ Haws is getting his mojo back.
This 13-9 season isn’t what some expected out of BYU basketball, but the BYU junior has been a productive gadget player for Dave Rose. He works hard on defense, plays smarter, has been more consistent, dependable and captain-worthy. At times, Haws has been a deadly assassin from short and long range and the line, and nobody gets his teammates more involved.
A year ago, Haws’ confidence took a hit while working in Heath Schroyer’s deliberate offensive system.
Today, Haws isn’t perfect. But as the Cougars wind their way to Las Vegas and the West Coast Conference Tournament, the game Haws is playing is much closer to a Picasso than something from Disney.
In short, Haws has turned into the glue Rose needs to make this Frankenstein season work.
Now that Rose has used Haws at the point, put the ball in his hands like he did Jimmer Fredette, Haws is more comfortable in his skin looking for teammates and getting his own shots.
Haws leads the team in minutes played (739), 3-point shots taken (116) and made (43), free throws attempted (121) and made (103), accuracy from the line (.851), assists (114) and steals (26).
But here’s the real rub. At just 6-foot-4, 175 pounds, a walking, running nine-iron, Haws is BYU’s second-leading rebounder with 87 behind bigger, tougher, taller and thicker Yoeli Childs (213). He is second on the team in scoring with a 17.6 average.
Haws has twice as many assists as anybody else on BYU’s roster.
In short, it is hard to find a player on Rose’s roster who is hustling harder than Haws, albeit there are some whose minutes have been fragmented and sporadic and it has been hard for them to get in a rhythm.
Haws has fought through foul trouble but only fouled out once. In those stretches, he’s had to adjust his game. He isn’t really a great perimeter defender, but he has made a major effort to hustle to close out and chase shooters, spending energy he knows he’s sacrificing towards his offense.
That shows you something. Last week, Rose declared Haws was playing the best basketball of his career.
This isn’t the year many envisioned when Rose signed the famed Lone Peak Three in Eric Mika, Nick Emery and Haws a few years ago. They all went on missionary service, but while Mika bailed for professional ball in Italy and Emery got mired down in trouble, it is Haws who has come closer to living up to expectations.
This season’s greatest mystery left unanswered is what would have been if Emery hadn’t stumbled off the court and Mika and Elijah Bryant had done what Kyle Collinsworth did and finished their collegiate careers. One could say Collinsworth has reaped far more dividends as a professional than Mika and Bryant.
And then there’s this marriage thing. It’s a BYU culture thing for sure, and how basketball players deal with it is a different story. Mika and Bryant, in part, left early with spouses to build nests elsewhere. Collinsworth and Haws built their marriages around the college experience.
Rick Pitino was in Orem recently and someone asked him how many married players he has coached at Kentucky and Louisville or anywhere he’s been. He answered none. Gonzaga’s Mark Few was asked a similar question, and he said he’d only had one married player, and he transferred to BYU.16 comments on this story
This is an interesting factor, whether argued as a negative or positive, it is a component on an athletic team and BYU has more connubial connections than anybody else in the college game. Marriage is a contracted partnership outside an athletic team’s locker room and can be an aspect to manage.
In all of this, Haws can safely and confidently say, “I’m your Huckleberry.”
Down the stretch, Haws has been a tremendous lifeline for Rose in a season that just may be the most challenging — both on and off the court — in his career.
It is time to give Haws his due. He is BYU basketball. His loyalty, work ethic and performance clearly stand out late in January.