Skip to content

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

Nov 19, 2012, 2:31 PM EDT

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. Rick Barnes is considering an offer from Tennessee

    Mar 31, 2015, 1:47 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Barnes spent the last 17 seasons at Texas.

  2. UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Maryland, all No. 1 seeds, advance to women’s Final Four

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT

    Brianna Turner AP

    UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Maryland make up the 2015 women’s Final Four.

  3. Sources: Johnathan Williams III expected to transfer from Missouri

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:24 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Williams was the leading scorer and rebounder for the Tigers this season.

  4. Nebraska forward giving up basketball for senior season

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Nebraska forward Walter Pitchford is giving up basketball for his senior season.

  5. Xavier sophomore guard will transfer

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    Parker Wentz, Brandon Randolph AP

    Xavier is losing a reserve guard to transfer.

  6. Reports: Chris Mullin is the new head coach at St. John’s

    Mar 30, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Chris Mullin will get a chance to restore glory at St. John’s.

  7. George Mason hires Bucknell head coach Dave Paulsen

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    George Mason makes a move to hire a new head coach.

  8. 2015 NCAA Tournament All-Second Weekend Team

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Who were the best players in the second-weekend of the NCAA tournament?

  9. Dan Patrick Show: Tom Izzo talks Final Four, facing Coach K

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:07 PM EDT

    Michigan State earned its Final Four spot Sunday (AP Photo) Michigan State earned its Final Four spot Sunday (AP Photo)

    Izzo became the first coach to lead three teams seeded No. 5 or lower to the Final Four.

  10. Damion Lee to graduate, transfer from Drexel

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:41 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Lee will be a priority target during the offseason.

  11. While a major question remains unanswered, No. 4 North Carolina can be special in 2015-16

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:22 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The Tar Heels should return every piece to its rotation next season, but what happens with the NCAA inquiry will have an impact as well.

  12. Dan Patrick Show: Sam Dekker talks Wisconsin’s return to Final Four

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Dekker was the best player in the second weekend of the event.

  13. The AP released their All-American teams on Monday

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:42 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    There isn’t anything all that wrong with the AP’s list. The first team is perfect.

  14. 2015 NCAA Tournament: Final Four betting lines, Vegas odds

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:19 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    If you need to place a bet, here are the lines you’ll be working with.

  15. Reports: Jeff Neubauer hired as next Fordham head coach

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:46 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Neubauer was with Eastern Kentucky for 10 years and John Beilein for nine seasons before that.

  16. Tournament darling R.J. Hunter is heading to the NBA

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:05 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    R.J. Hunter and his father/coach became a sensation during the tournament.