Tyler Haws went more than two years without scoring a basket for BYU. He is clearly making up for the gap in time.
Returning after two seasons of overseas missionary service to contribute is difficult enough, but Haws has not only become a key contributor, he has established himself as the Cougars' go-to marksman and one of the most prolific scorers in the country.
Haws is pacing BYU at 20.7 points per game, a number that ranks 10th nationally. He is second nationally in total field goals made, behind only Creighton's Doug McDermott-—a player viewed as the front-runner for National Player of the Year honors. Combining field goals and free throws made, only three other players nationally have seen more of their shots go in the hoop this season.
With 893 career points, Haws is quickly approaching membership in BYU's "1,000 Point Club," and will almost certainly become only the second-ever BYU player to hit that milestone in his sophomore season; the first and only BYU player to do it was Danny Ainge, who played four uninterrupted seasons at BYU.
Only eight BYU players have ever recorded single-season scoring averages greater than Haws' current 20.7 ppg--and only one (Ainge) did so before his junior season.
How does he do it? Simple answer: from everywhere. Driving lay-ins. Post-ups. Spot-ups. Three-pointers. In half-court. In transition. Free throws. Jump shots. Notably, a lot of those jumpers come from mid-range.
In an era when players seemingly score inside or outside, but rarely anywhere else, Haws has a wheelhouse from 10-16 feet that he utilizes as well as anyone in the game. BYU head coach Dave Rose calls the mid-range shot his "bread and butter."
Saturday night in BYU's win over Santa Clara, without the benefit of a single three-point shot and only two free throws, he scored a game-high 24 points—-including four lay-ups, two short jumpers, and five mid-range shots.
Before the game, Santa Clara assistant coach Dustin Kerns, who scouted BYU in preparation for the game, called Haws a "great player," with "a great mid-range game."
"He's just one of those guys who have a knack for scoring," said Kerns. "I think if Tyler played any position on the floor, he'd find a way to score his points. He's just so efficient."
Of players who have used at least 27% of their team's possessions, Haws (27.1%) has a Pomeroy offensive rating of 114.5, which places him 16th nationally.
"He's been so effective for us," said Rose after Saturday night's game. "It's just him putting in the work and being confident."
"The thing that I like most about Ty is that he can play the next play. If he gets himself in a tough situation that doesn't work out, that next play, everyone has as much confidence in him as if he just made the last play, because you know he's going to play the next play and put all the effort into being successful the next time."
Not that Haws is immune to frustration. After making 73 of his first 77 free throws this season (94.8%), he has gone 39 for his last 52 (75.0%) from the stripe, leading to a few head-shaking, hand-smacking trips back to the other end of the floor. When a player with the stroke of a metronome sees his touch turn suddenly a little less reliable, it's understandably a bit vexing.
A 48% shooter on the season who has shot 50% or better from the field 13 times in 24 games, Haws recently endured a three-game stretch that tested his resolve and prompted him to look for solutions. In games home to San Diego, at Gonzaga and at Portland, Haws went 13-for-43 from the floor and 2-for-8 from the arc. He still found a way to score 45 points in those three games, but included was a one-point performance in Spokane that had Haws riding the bench for a longer stretch than usual.
Rose says that "Ty came to us after a tough week… things weren't going like he wanted them to go."
"One of the things we really talked about was how can new get Ty more baskets in transition," Rose said. "He's a guy who really studies the game; he's a guy who's really concerned about teams how are guarding him and then what we can do actually to help him get free, and what he can do for himself."
In the last two games, since the sit-down, Haws has shot 57% from the floor, averaged 22.5 points per game, and has produced more on the fast break. If Haws has hit the mental re-set button, then expect this student of the game to continuing schooling opponents down the stretch.
Haws' competitive spirit is balanced by his affability. On the floor, he is businesslike, and off the floor, he is pleasant. An hour after home games, you can usually spot Haws sitting with family members in the stands, ice bags on shoulders and knees, legs draped over the seats, just unwinding.
With Haws on the verge of the thousand-point milestone (he's 107 points away), and with still two more seasons to play, he could make a run at becoming the top scorer in BYU history, a spot currently occupied by Jimmer Fredette, who recorded 2,599 points in four consecutive seasons of play.
"People ask me who I compare (Haws) to," says Rose, "and there are probably three or four guys who have scored a lot of points for us (with whom he shares) the same characteristics, but he's relentless at scoring--like Jimmer was."
Rose references a player who stands 11th on BYU's all-time points tally to illustrate what makes Haws special, as a scorer. "We use (Tyler) a lot like we used Lee (Cummard), but Lee was guy that we had to encourage and almost beg to finish the play with a shot. He was a guy who was always looking for his teammate."
"Tys's a guy…you get him dialed in and he comes off those screens, he catches that thing and he knows what he wants to do with it. And he knows why we're calling that play for him. We need him to score. I think it's something that developed in his game a long time ago, because I watched him all through high school, and all through AAU ball… and that was a part to him—that he was relentless in his ability to score."
Through his sophomore season, Fredette had scored 780 points. He scored 1,819 points over his last two seasons, averaging 25.6 points per game in doing so.
Haws is likely to finish his sophomore season in the 1,100-point range, leaving him roughly 1,500 points away from BYU's career scoring mark. To achieve that, he would need to average 21.4 points per game over a projected 70 games in his junior and senior seasons. Scoring 20.7 ppg in 2012-13, he's almost already on that pace.
Haws won't necessarily need to make the significant leaps from sophomore-to-junior and junior-to-senior seasons that propelled Fredette to the pinnacle of the Cougars' scoring charts. Haws can rise to the top by simply being his efficient and consistent self, wearing down the record book with that relentless ability to score.
But, if he's already this good, now, Haws could end up placing the BYU points record out of sight. You can continue to count on him "putting in the work," and whatever that means statistically, he's unlikely to stand still. The metronome will just keep on clicking along, marking time on a career destined for greatness.