The BYU men’s basketball is facing the 2015-2016 season without one of the most prolific players to ever come through Provo.
Tyler Haws was a mainstay of the team over the past three seasons. His consistency helped him to become BYU’s all-time leading scorer and two-time All-WCC team member.
But the Cougars will be without Haws’ services in 2015. The shooting guard graduated and signed a deal with Obradoiro CAB, a professional team in Belgium.
Head coach Dave Rose said replacing Haws will be as difficult as replacing Jimmer Fredette in 2012.
“This reminds me of four or five years ago when we were trying to replace Jimmer, as far as scoring is concerned,” Rose said at BYU’s recent media day. “Tyler was such a consistent scorer for us. The way we’ll do this is similar to that year. We’ll have a lot of guys share that role.”
Those first in line to shoulder the load are senior captains Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer, along with freshman sharpshooter Nick Emery.
Collinsworth’s six triple doubles in 2014-15 broke the NCAA single-season record. Collinsworth acknowledged that although losing Haws is difficult, the team can still improve.
“It’s a tough loss to lose Ty, obviously,” Collinsworth said at media day. “But I think it’s possible (to be an even better team). I think balanced scoring from guards and bigs will be helpful. On the defensive end, we need to make more stops.”
Collinsworth averaged 13.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game last season, scoring a career-high 28 points in a 75-91 loss to Gonzaga in the 2015 West Coast Conference tournament.
“This is as good as I’ve ever felt in my career,” Collinsworth said. “It was nice to be able to have a season and an offseason to be able to build on to the next season. It’s something I haven’t had in my career from my mission and recovering from my ACL injury. Last year was a great season, but I’m very excited to see what will happen this season.”
Fischer led BYU in scoring four times last season and scored in double digits 21 times. Fischer found remarkable success from behind the arc, hitting at least one 3-pointer in 18-straight games last season. Against Chaminade, Fischer set a BYU school record.
Fischer now aims to improve his all-around game.
“(I want) more of an off-the-dribble game for me,” Fischer said at media day. “I really got in the gym and worked on my ball handling and different ways to get my shot off. I’m more of a complete player now. I’ve had the best summer of my life and put a lot of work in.”
Fischer’s 2014 season was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. He scored 20 or more points six times, but also posted single digit scoring numbers in 13 games. He’ll need to show more consistent play to help fill the void left by Haws.
“I don’t really look at it as trying to fill Tyler Haws’ shoes,” Fischer said at media day. “I think it’s a group effort. I think I’ll fill that void, but so will Kyle (Collinsworth) and Jamal Aytes and Kyle Davis. I think last year I was kind of more of a shooter. But I’ve always been a scorer, and I think this year I’ll show that a lot more.”
ESPN rated Emery as a four-star recruit coming out of high school in 2013, and he was 45th on ESPN’s Top 100 list as a senior. Collegiate basketball powerhouses UCLA and Kansas heavily recruited Emery before he committed to the Cougars.
There are clearly high hopes for Emery. He led Lone Peak to three straight Utah 5A state championships and left as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,953 career points.
Emery said he doesn’t feel any pressure to fill Haws’ scoring vacancy.
“I think any of us can score the ball,” Emery said at media day. “We’re all scorers, we were all scorers in high school, it’s just a thing we need to put together now.”
Emery is expected to play major minutes this season as a true freshman.
The Cougars are also expected to have a greater post presence in 2015-16. Transfers Kyle Davis and Jamal Aytes will look to lead BYU’s inside scoring.
Davis averaged 9.1 points per game with Utah State in 2013-14 before transferring and sitting out a season at BYU. Some close to the Cougars believed Davis was the most talented post player in practices last year.
“His low post scoring will be great,” Collinsworth said. “We missed that last year, and he is very good at that and very consistent.”
An ankle injury kept Aytes from playing last season after transferring from UNLV. Now Aytes is healthy and is focused on “helping the team win.”
Aytes mentioned at media day that he models his game after Carmelo Anthony, posting up smaller players and driving past bigger ones.
Fischer said he expects both Aytes and Davis to pick up scoring and take pressure off the guards.
“I expect a big inside presence,” Fischer said. “I think we’ll have more of an inside presence, more rebounding and more physicality. We can throw it inside rather than having the other team know a guard is going to shoot. I’ve been helping Kyle Davis come off that redshirt year, which is a lot harder than people think. He and Jamal will give us another dimension to our scoring this year.”
The team begins exhibition play against Arizona Christian University on Friday, Oct. 30.