The path to glory on the basketball court is not as easy as following a yellow brick road.
The will to win and the drive of a champion has the ability to raise players to the canonized reality that greatness transcends all obstacles. Tyler Haws isn’t yet a legend, but if his junior season is any indication of his future, he’s well on his way.
Haws’ status may very well be slated to take effect one year from now following his senior season, but it’s worth noting that his junior year on the hardwood was a stellar one.
WCC Player of the Year and first team all-WCC for the 2013–2014 season, Haws stood atop the conference in points per game at 23.5, with second place nearly five points behind. He also ranked fifth in free-throw percentage at 87 percent, and fourth in minutes played at 34 per game.
“Tyler is very deserving of this honor,” said BYU head coach Dave Rose. “He’s had huge offensive games, he’s had an increased role defensively, and he does so much to help us win games. To be the guy that everyone tries to stop every night and to be as consistent as he’s been certainly deserves this type of recognition.”
Haws impressed throughout the year, showcasing his offensive brilliance particularly well during a four-game stretch between Jan. 23 and Feb. 1, in which he averaged 35.5 points per game.
“It’s interesting; we would field six or seven questions, and nobody would ask about Ty getting 33,” Rose said after BYU’s first win against Saint Mary’s. “I mean, that’s amazing that he’s been as good and as consistent as he’s been.”
During Rose’s tenure, four Cougars have been named conference players of the year, including Jimmer Fredette, who, in addition to his name becoming a verb, landed the nation’s most prestigious award for Division I basketball as the consensus National Player of the Year and took the Cougars to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1981.
While Fredette’s legacy lies in the three ball and his name, Haws’ is gaining momentum as he tortures defenses with his jab step and mid-range floater. Conference opponents often placed two or three defenders on him, but he still managed to find open space on the floor and hit shots. He scored in double figures all 29 games in which he logged time, scoring 20 points 10 times and 30 points five times, topping it off with a career-high 48 points Jan. 23 at Portland.
Teammate Anson Winder compared Haws’ outpouring of points to one of the dominant players in the NBA.
“It’s unreal the way he’s scoring right now,” Winder said after a win against Santa Clara. “It’s almost Kevin Durant-like.”
Haws finished off the regular season fifth all-time in scoring at BYU, on pace to finish atop the list by this time next year. Number four on that list is Danny Ainge, a four-year standout for the Cougars from 1977 to 1981.
As a senior, Ainge led the Cougars in scoring at 24.4 points per game, shooting 52 percent from the field, and totaled 46 steals. He led the Cougars to their first, and only, Elite Eight appearance off a game-winning layup against Notre Dame, cementing his status as legendary. His No. 22 jersey was the first one ever retired in the Marriott Center.
The line between greatness and legend is fine. Great players take what is given to them and make the most of what they have. Legends take their greatness to unprecedented heights. Fredette and Ainge solidified themselves in the annals of Cougars history by blazing their own paths, not following another’s. Built upon the foundation of hard work and consistency, Haws’ already impressive career has a chance to stand above the rest.
What will his fate be? The ball is in your court, Mr. Haws.