Skip to content

Back from mission, Tyler Haws is the same player but a new man

Nov 19, 2012, 2:31 PM EST

BYU Notre Dame Basketball

BROOKLYN – Back in October, a significant change was announced by Thomas S. Monson, the current President of the LDS Church. Instead of requiring young men to wait until they are 19 years old to be able to go on their two-year missions, the rule change now allows high school graduates to leave after their 18th birthday if they have already gotten their diploma. This change was huge news in college athletics for schools like BYU, Utah and Utah State. Now, instead of Mormon athletes having to spend their freshman season on campus before leaving for two years, these kids can serve for two years before arriving on campus and then spend four or five consecutive seasons with their team.

It’s a rule that Tyler Haws wishes he could have taken advantage of.

“I would have gone straight out, for sure,” Haws, BYU’s sophomore shooting guard, said. “I think that’s the easiest thing to do, get out and come back and have four years.”

Haws should be a senior right now. You want an idea of how long it has been since Haws last played for the Cougars? When he was a freshman, Haws teamed up with Jimmer Fredette, who had yet to become a national sensation and whose name hadn’t become verbiage meaning sinking 32-foot threes. Brandon Davies is no longer a random freshman, instead he’s 20 months removed from one of the more embarrassing and polarizing suspensions in recent memory. Brock Zylstra and Davies are the only players still on the roster from Haws’ freshman year. Perhaps most significantly, however, BYU is no longer in the same conference as Utah. The Utes moved on to the Pac-12 while the Cougars now share conference membership with the likes of Gonzaga and St. Mary’s.

Haws averaged 11.3 points and 4.2 boards as a freshman, but after one year on campus, he made the decision to serve his mission, putting a very promising basketball career on hold. Haws expected to be sent to Europe — he was born in Belgium and still has family on that side of the pond — but was instead shipped off to the Philippines.

It was a speed bump, but it was one that Haws had been looking forward to.

“It’s something I was definitely planning on my whole life, since I was a little kid,” Haws said. “It feels good to be back and playing again, but [serving my mission] was the best experience of my whole life.”

Haws will always wonder whether or not his presence on BYU’s roster in 2010-2011, the year The Jimmer led BYU to the Sweet 16, could have helped them get past Florida. That’s something that’s never going to go away. But Haws is devout. He’s loyal to his faith, and he believes that there he’s more than simply a basketball player. He realizes that there is more to life than being really good at making a ball go through a metal ring. Missing out on BYU’s dream season will sting, and that’s never going to go away, but neither will the lessons he learned and the experiences he had when he served.

“I feel like the experience that I gained on my mission can’t be gained any other way,” he said. “I feel like stepping away from the game for two years can really help you. I feel like I grew up as a person and as a leader.”

“We have a prophet in the Mormon faith, and he’s given a commandment to serve a mission. … We believe that commandment comes from God, and we feel like it’s really important. And I felt like it was something that I needed to do.”

In talking to Haws, that doesn’t feel like lip service either. He comes across as genuine, honest and open, and one can only wonder how much of that is a result of spending two years helping people in a third-world country.

Now that he’s back at BYU, Haws’ focus has returned to the hardwood, but it wasn’t an easy transition going from being a missionary to an elite level athlete. Living in Quezon City, outside of Manila, Haws’ days were strenuous, organized and long. Six days a week, he was up by 6:30 a.m., spending as many as 15 hours-a-day studying scripture and spreading the gospel of the LDS Church. He wasn’t there to train; he barely had time to check his email or do his laundry.

Playing basketball once a week, at the most, against Philippinos, who aren’t exactly known for their height, took a toll on Haws’ physical condition. He lost 10 pounds, he couldn’t run as far or as fast, he couldn’t jump as high. That silky-smooth jumper he was known for took some work before it stopped looking like a Reggie Evans free throw. “I tried to take it one step at a time when I got back,” he said. “I tried to get my strength back, my body back. I feel really comfortable right now.”

It took a lot of time and even more hard work, but Haws appears to be rounding back into game shape. In two games at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic last week, Haws averaged 22.0 points, 8.5 boards, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals. On the season, those numbers are 22.0 points, 7.0 boards and 3.8 assists while shooting 49.3% from the field and 35.7% from three.

He’s the perfect wing compliment to Davies in the paint and Matt Carlino at the point. If he can continue to play at this level, he gives BYU a chance to compete for the WCC crown and earn an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament.

And rest assured, that’s something that Haws will work his tail off to achieve, because finding success on the court still matters to him.

But it’s no longer the most important part of Haws’ life.

“It’s changed my perspective on life,” he said. “I went to a third-world country. All I did is just serve and help people all day. I got to see how people lived and how the gospel of Jesus Christ can help others.”

“It changed me forever.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Campbell’s Reco McCarter throws down 360 dunk … again (VIDEO)

    Feb 27, 2015, 6:00 PM EST

    AP AP

    This isn’t the first time he’s done this in a game.

  2. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings will not be suspended

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:45 PM EST

    AP AP

    The Vandy coach was quick to apology following last night’s incident.

  3. Michigan head coach John Beilein remains ‘hopeful’ that point guard will return this season

    Feb 27, 2015, 4:25 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Derrick Walton Jr. hasn’t played in just over a month, but he’s still bothered by an issue with his right foot.

  4. UTEP head coach Tim Floyd suspended one game by Conference USA

    Feb 27, 2015, 3:20 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Floyd was ejected with 10:05 remaining in the Miners’ 77-60 loss at Louisiana Tech, and he failed to leave the court in a timely manner.

  5. Florida reinstates junior forward following three-game suspension

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:59 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Billy Donovan would like to see his veteran forward make some strides in the commitment department moving forward.

  6. NCAA tournament berth the final step for St. John’s senior class

    Feb 27, 2015, 2:16 PM EST

    Steve Lavin's three seniors have the NCAA tournament in their sights (AP Photo) AP

    On the heels of St. John’s last NCAA appearance in 2011, seven players joined the program. Three remain, and their aim is to get to the Big Dance as seniors.

  7. Pregame Shootaround: Valparaiso looks to clinch outright Horizon League title

    Feb 27, 2015, 1:32 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Also of note is the second meeting of the season between rivals Iona and Manhattan.

  8. Junior guard starting to give No. 7 Arizona much-needed perimeter shooting

    Feb 27, 2015, 12:12 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Shooting 7-for-10 from three over the last two games, Gabe York has hit multiple three-pointers in consecutive games for the first time since mid-December. That’s a good development for Arizona.

  9. Bracketology: Kentucky reigns and March arrives

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:01 AM EST

    John Calipari, Andrew Harrison, Tyler Ulis John Calipari, Andrew Harrison, Tyler Ulis

    While the Wildcats continue to roll along, other one-seeds are up for discussion as the season moves into the month of March.

  10. Defensive lapses cost Michigan State dearly against Minnesota (VIDEO)

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:55 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Leading by six with 34 seconds remaining in regulation, Michigan State looked to be on their way to a home win over Minnesota. Then they fouled three-point shooters on two separate occasions.

  11. Weekend Preview: Saturday will be the season’s best day of games

    Feb 27, 2015, 8:07 AM EST

    The Utes fell in Tucson, but they'll be fine (AP Photo) AP

    I hope you’re ready for a thrilling day of hoops.

  12. Late Night Snacks: Minnesota wins at Michigan State, No. 7 Arizona and No. 13 Utah roll

    Feb 27, 2015, 1:31 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Michigan State fouled three-point shooters on two separate occasions late in regulation, and it set the stage for an overtime loss at home.

  13. Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings apologizes for postgame outburst directed at freshman guard Wade Baldwin IV

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:47 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The Vandy freshman taunted a Tennessee player as time expired in the Commodores’ win, and his head coach read him the riot act in the handshake line.

  14. Bubble Banter: Just how safe is Michigan State, and did Ohio State punch a ticket?

    Feb 26, 2015, 10:29 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Who were the winners and the losers on the bubble on Thursday?

  15. Jae’Sean Tate produces another quality performance as Ohio State blows out Nebraska

    Feb 26, 2015, 9:17 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Tate scored a career-high 22 points Thursday night, and his move into the starting lineup has helped Ohio State.

  16. West Virginia announces addition of five year-old to basketball program (VIDEO)

    Feb 26, 2015, 8:35 PM EST

    Bob Huggins Bob Huggins

    Five year-old Nicholas Wince spent the entire day with West Virginia prior to their win over Texas, signing a National Letter of Intent as well.

  17. Shoulder injuries to sideline USC freshman point guard for remainder of season

    Feb 26, 2015, 5:54 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Without Jordan McLaughlin, USC will have to rely on Julian Jacobs at the point in their final two regular season games.

  18. Alabama junior guard to miss remainder of season due to foot, knee injuries

    Feb 26, 2015, 4:50 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    In addition to a ruptured plantar fascia suffered in a loss to Florida in late-January, Ricky Tarrant also needs to undergo a procedure on his left knee.

  19. Jim Boeheim: ‘I wish I had another solution’ to the postseason ban

    Feb 26, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    Jim Boeheim AP

    Boeheim doesn’t seem pleased about the ruling.