Don’t Call It a Comeback

by March 07, 2013

During the two years Tyler was overseas, TJ blossomed into one of the top combo guards in the country for the Class of 2014 and committed to BYU. Despite being four years younger than Tyler, the 6-4 TJ proved to be a formidable training partner as Tyler began to get his feet wet again upon his return, and the one-on-one battles weren’t as one-sided as they used to be.

“He pushed me a lot in this past offseason,” Tyler said. “Right when I got home he wanted to play me and beat up on me while I was fresh off the mission. But Teej is great. Our games are different, and my game is not his game. So when we play one-on-one, it’s always a battle. We know each other’s games and fight hard to make each other better. We go back and forth, actually—[who wins] depends on the day.”

“I’ve always seen Ty growing up and how hard of a worker he is, and that’s why he’s as successful as he is,” TJ said. “But I didn’t expect him to work as hard as he did when he first got back from his mission. There were times we’d shoot in the morning, lift in the afternoon then he’d be ready to go over to our church to get some shots up with me. I was stunned, I was like, ‘I’m tired.’ He’s pushed me and shown me what it takes to be a really good basketball player. I’m lucky to have that example, and he’s definitely made me a better basketball player.”

The work Tyler put in throughout his hoops career, especially during the time since returning from the Philippines to exceed the level he was playing at prior to leaving, is something TJ has dedicated himself to emulating. Yet the fact the youngest Haws son committed to BYU had little to do with the fact his father and older brother played there.

Experiences one faces throughout life, no matter how large or petty in the ‘big picture,’ inevitably shape one’s identity. TJ said the recruiting process, and his ultimate decision where he’d attend college, was one of many he had to take on his own as he grows up.

“I didn’t feel pressured at all,” said TJ, who held an offer from Utah and had Stanford hot in pursuit. “My dad told me this is a time in my life where I can make a decision that is all about me, and not about anyone else. We went through the recruiting process how I wanted. But I just felt comfortable with BYU because their coaches had shown interest in me at an early age, and I could tell they wanted me.

“All throughout the summers you pretty much just counted on one of the BYU coaches being there. Whether we were in California, Milwaukee or Boston there was always a coach there. I like them and I like the atmosphere there. I’m excited to go.”

It probably helped that his high school teammates, Nick Emery and Eric Mika, will be there as well. Emery, a 6-2 sharp-shooting point guard, broke Tyler’s career scoring record at Lone Peak this season and will serve his mission after this year before arriving at BYU—an option that wasn’t available until this year.

The 6-9 Mika has established himself as one of the best post prospects in the country, given his ability to be a load in the paint and run the floor. He will play a season with BYU before heading off on his mission.

BYU football commit Talon Shumway, and 6-3 guard Conner Toolson—a DI hoops prospect—round out the rest of the Lone Peak starting five that has captivated high school hoops followers all over the country this season. The Knights capped their year by finishing 26-1 and winning their third straight Class 5A state title on March 2. Their only loss came at the hands of top-10 nationally ranked Montverde Prep (FL) in the City of Palms championship.

The mix of talent in the backcourt and frontcourt, along with college-level ball movement and sets under Coach Lewis, has proved to be a devastating combination for opposing defenses. Add in the fact Lone Peak is also tenacious and disciplined defensively, and it shouldn’t be a surprise Lone Peak is rated as one of the best teams in the country.

Perhaps no performance of the Knights has been more impressive than their 81-46 obliteration of two-time defending California Division II state champion Archbishop Mitty, featuring consensus top-five senior Aaron Gordon, on ESPNU. TJ scored 18 points while displaying his arsenal of perimeter shooting and advanced mid-range game, and also snatched 5 steals.

TJ still has one more year of high school before he has to decide whether to go on a mission straight out of high school, or possibly play a season with Tyler at BYU. But for now, he’s just enjoying the ride that has taken the Knights from a regional powerhouse to a national powerhouse ranked by all the publications in the top five in the country—and easily the best public high school team in the USA. has Lone Peak ranked No. 1 overall.

“I’ve taken a step back and looked at the big picture,” said TJ, who was a member of the ’11 and ’12 state championship squads as well. “I’m never going to have this experience ever again with the guys I’m with. I’m just trying to enjoy it every single day. Having the success that we’re having and being able to travel with these guys who are some of my best friends has been so fun. A lot of the guys on the team have realized we can play with anyone and our confidence has grown. Individual confidence comes off from that for sure.”

The Lone Peak-to-BYU pipeline isn’t necessarily new. Current BYU players Nate Austin and Josh Sharp were both teammates of Tyler’s at Lone Peak during the ’07 and ’08 state championship campaigns. Nick’s older brother Jackson capped his career at Lone Peak with a state crown in 2005.

Lewis said besides the obvious differences between the Haws brothers’ games and positions on the court, as well as their personalities, they share a couple distinct similarities that have been a helpful driving force to Lone Peak’s state supremacy and what have BYU fans excited about their presence in the program.

“Those guys are great and put up big numbers, but really the first thing with both of them is winning,” Lewis said. “TJ is averaging 17 or 18 a game right now, and if he’s somewhere else he’s averaging 27 or 28 a game right now. He’s got a fun personality, and a little bit more out there with the guys. Tyler is a little bit more reserved than TJ, but Teej has put forth the same type of work ethic. They’re very different players. He’s willing to sacrifice for what we need to do to win, and that’s how Tyler was too.”

Given the success of the Knights teams over the last few years, naturally, light-hearted debates chock-full of trash talk have arisen from the hypothetical matchups of the respective teams.

“I tease him a lot about it. I think our team would beat his team for sure,” TJ said with a devilish laugh.

“We talk about that sometimes,” Tyler said. “My junior year we had five or six DI guys, and it would be a battle for sure. I have to give TJ’s team a lot of credit, I mean they’ve been playing together since they were 10 years old and they’re ranked No. 1. So they might get the edge in the end.

“I try and follow them wherever they are, and if I can go to some of the local games I go and support. I’m still a big Lone Peak fan.”

With that debate somewhat settled for the time being, both Haws’ are now squarely focused on helping their current teams.

It’s not accurate to parallel Tyler’s mission in the Philippines to the one he’s currently immersed in on the court, but as he had a positive impact on those around him overseas, he’s proven to make one on his brother as well as the BYU basketball team since returning.

He’s just happy to have fulfilled one life-long dream already while he continues to chase another.

“It means a lot because I love playing the game, and I love BYU,” he said. “I grew up close to here and to be a part of this program and play for coach Rose means a lot. We still have a lot of basketball ahead of us and lots of challenges left in the season. We have to keep plugging away.

“I’m trying to just be the best college basketball player I can be, then wherever basketball takes me is where I’ll go,” Tyler said.