A special group of guys

After serving a two-year LDS mission to the Philippines, Tyler Haws has returned to Cougar basketball with intangible skills that he feels can help him play a bigger role this year. A little wiser and a little older, Haws feels the leadership experience he's gained will better serve the team, which he feels is a special group of guys.

"I'm definitely very excited about this year," Tyler Haws said. "I feel like this group is a special group of guys. We want to win and we're very hungry, and I feel like we have the talent with this group to really do some good things.

"I think experience is big for us this year. That's definitely what a lot of the guys got last year. I'm very, very comfortable with this group of guys and I feel we're very unified. We have one main goal and that's to win."

Before WCC play gets underway this season, the Cougars will face teams such as Baylor, Iowa State, Florida State, and either Notre Dame or Saint Joseph's, depending on the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

"We have a tough preseason schedule and we have to be ready, but we're excited," Haws said. "We know what kind of players we have on this team, and if we can stay healthy, we're going to be a tough team to beat."

Haws wasn't on the roster last season. Instead, he was half a world away on the islands of the Philippines engaged in missionary work. But upon his return to the Cougar basketball program, he's noticed an intense disposition that runs through the roster.

"I feel like everyone on the team has something to prove," Haws said. "I mean, we're in a new conference now and we haven't won this conference yet. We lost some games last year that we should have won, and so guys are hungry and we want to win. We feel like we need to play with a chip on our shoulder every game, and if we can do that with this group of guys we can win."

In the Cougar Tipoff, Haws scored 26 points. In BYU's first exhibition game against Southeastern Oklahoma State, he tossed in 15 points and dished out four assists. Haws feels he's knocked the missionary rust off of his legs.

"The first couple of months was very tough trying to get my legs back, getting my quickness back, jumping and things like that, but after six months I feel like I'm back to where I was before I left on my mission," Haws said. "I feel like I'm right back to where I was when I left. I tried to take it one step at a time and not do too much too soon. I hit the weights really hard in the summer, and I worked really hard with my dad and my brother to get back to where I was. I feel great right now."

During his freshman year, Haws scored an average of 11.3 points a game and set a school record with a 91.7 shooting percentage from the free-throw line. He also scored in double figures 21 times.

"My role will be similar to my freshman year, but I do feel that I'll have more of a leadership role," said Haws. "I have a good year of experience and I feel like I learned lots of things over my mission that can help bring some leadership to the team."

That last Cougar team that Haws played on featured eventual national player of the year Jimmer Fredette. While Haws will be hard-pressed to score as much as Fredette did, he is nevertheless looking to up his game in Jimmer-like fashion.

"Well, I'm no Jimmer," said Haws with a laugh. "I definitely want to help my team win, and that's the biggest thing. We have to keep improving. I think I'll have a balanced approach as a shooter and a defender this year. I'll definitely have to score some points and think I'll get some touches in the post and definitely in the break.

"I feel like one of my strengths is I can score in many different ways. I can score on the free-throw line, on the block, three-point line and in the break, so I expect to be very active on the scoring end as well as being someone that can provide defense on the other end of the court."

The Cougars were picked to finish second in the WCC this season, behind Gonzaga, while senior forward Brandon Davies is as a preseason first-team all-WCC selection.

"Brandon has definitely improved a ton since I was here a while ago when we were freshmen together," said Haws. "He's going to have to be huge for us this year. We don't have a ton of big guys on the team, so he definitely has to be that big presence on the inside that we need. He's going to draw a lot of attention this year, so the other guys have to be ready to step up too and help him to have a big year."

With Nate Austin having a year of experience under his belt, the sophomore forward should provide more complementary play to Davies on the inside.

"I also feel like Nate Austin on the inside has to be big for us on the block and as a defensive presence," said Haws. "He's another one of our big men, so he has to establish that presence in the middle and draw attention as someone who can score. I think that can help open some things up for us with other players if that happens."

If the Cougars are to compete and reach their goal of winning the WCC, Davies and Haws will have to come up big this season. But, the key to the Cougars' success this year might lie with the play of sophomore guard Matt Carlino.

"Matt is a guy that when he's playing well, everyone is playing well around him," Haws said. "He can dictate the pace of the game, and when he does play fast our team can be really good. That's the thing Coach Rose is trying to get us to do is play fast and at a good pace. Matt can definitely do that and we expect him to do that this year."

Of course, a number of other players will play a role in BYU's success this season.

"Anson [Winder] is a high-energy guy that brings a spark to our team," Haws said. "I also feel like Craig Cusick and Josh Sharp provide so much energy and provide a really big boost for our team. I really feel good about the way Josh is playing right now. He just has a way of going up and getting the ball on offensive and defensive rebounds to really push things. He's very dominant on the boards and it's fun to be around him because we feed off of his energy. He's a guy that will play hard every single second, so look out for him. "

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