|Haws hardly trained during his two-year stint in the Philippines. (Getty Images)|
When Tyler Haws left Provo after his freshman season in April 2010, Jimmer wasn't a verb, Brigham Young was still in the Mountain West and Brandon Davies was anonymous. "A lot has changed," Haws admitted.
That's an understatement. Not just with BYU, either. Haws spent the past two years on a Mormon mission in the Philippines, much of it in Quezon City just outside of Manila, where he spread the word of the Mormon church and religion.
"Stepping away from basketball gave me a new perspective on life," Haws said. "I've come a long way."
|More on 2012-13 season|
Haws still loves basketball as much as just about anything in his life. It's still No. 1. However, now there's more balance than there was when he departed as an 18-year-old. Haws wasn't allowed to call his parents, friends or anyone in his family for the two years he spent abroad. There was no surfing the Internet each day, except on Preparation Day, in which he was allowed to access email, go shopping and do laundry.
"The first six months of the mission were really challenging," he said, "especially when people didn't want to talk or listen to you." Haws was paired with another missionary, and their mission was clear. But rejection was common and there were times they would literally knock on doors as a last resort. The day would begin at 8 a.m., and Haws would be out from noon until 9 p.m. in an attempt to set up appointments.
"Most of the time we'd just talk to people and try and keep it normal," he said. "It was very humbling to see the Filipino people. They don't have much, but they don't really need much to be happy."
There was the time when he ran into a mother and her three children at a small store. They were skeptical at first, but Haws said he wound up teaching the entire family over a two-month span.
"I saw them change their life," he said. "It was cool to see. It made everything worth it."
Haws said it was cool -- and somewhat surreal -- to hear about the exploits of Jimmer Fredette, his former teammate who became a sensation shortly after he left Provo for his mission. His father emailed him several articles, but word of Jimmer-Mania even spread to the Philippines.
"I obviously knew he was a really good player," Haws said. "He had a terrific season when I was a freshman and showed signs, but I didn't expect that. I don't think anyone expected it to take off like it did." Haws returned this past April, a 21-year-old man and also a changed basketball player from the one who left with all-league honors after averaging 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds as a freshman. The Filipinos are enthralled with basketball, but Haws said it wasn't as though he was able to stay in shape -- largely because of his missionary duties and also the lack of quality talent in the country.
"Most of the kids would be playing without shoes," Haws said. "Sometimes they'd throw me the ball -- and I'd just shoot or dunk. I was by far the tallest one, so all I'd really do is shoot threes."
Haws didn't quite realize how badly he was out of shape until his first pickup game with the team upon returning to Provo. Now, though, he's close to where he was when he left and is ready to help make certain BYU maintains its excellence since he left on his mission.
"The team has changed a lot," Haws said. "There's only two or three guys left from when I played my freshman year -- Brandon, Brock (Zylstra) and maybe one other. But I'm excited about playing with all these new guys. ... I view myself as a scorer, but I just want to be on the floor and help the team in any way I can. I know I can be a leader on the team for sure. We've got a lot of talent."
Leading scorer Noah Hartsock and fellow starter Charles Abouo are gone, but Davies, Zylstra and Matt Carlino are all back -- and Haws' return gives the Cougars four legitimate starters. That has the look and feel of a group that should be able to contend for one of the top spots in the West Coast Conference, but it could depend on whether Haws returns to his pre-mission form.
"There are other things that are important to me now besides just putting a ball in a hoop," Haws said. "But basketball is still extremely important to me."