Tyler Haws looks to lead BYU to the top of the WCC

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.

The BYU basketball program went through some changes in the two years that junior guard Tyler Haws spent away from the program, serving his two-year LDS mission in the Philippines.

During his freshman season Haws was a key contributor on a team led by Jimmer Fredette, as he averaged 11.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in helping the Cougars pick up their first NCAA tournament victory since 1993. The biggest change in the post-Jimmer era, however, was the school’s move from the Mountain West to the WCC, a process that played out while Haws was abroad. Not only did his return mean that he would have to work his way back into game shape, but in his first year back he would have to become familiar with new opponents (and styles of play) while also being expected to be one of the leaders for Dave Rose’s squad.

For most players, those factors and the lack of elite physical competition would lead to a slow start to the season. But that wasn’t the case for Haws, who scored 22 points in BYU’s season opener and ultimately proved to be one of the nation’s best shooters. Scoring a WCC-best 21.7 points per game, Haws shot 48.3% from the field and 38.1% from beyond the arc in leading the Cougars to 24 wins and a trip to the Postseason NIT semifinals.

“Not as much as I would have liked. You get about a half hour in the morning to do some stuff, so I tried to somewhat stay in good shape,” Haws told NBC Sports when asked about how much time he had to work out while on his mission. “I took a jump rope, did pushups and sit-ups, and in some areas I’d go running in the morning.

“Filipinos love basketball, and on almost every street there’s a couple basketball hoops so we’d stop and shoot around,” Haws continued. “Nothing too intense or serious though.”

With that being the case Haws needed to make the most of the six months he had prior to the 2012-13 season and he did just that, getting into the physical condition needed to have an immediate impact for the Cougars.

(CLICK HERE to read NBCSports.com’s West Coast Conference Preview)

“Every player is different. A lot of it is their body type and the ability to get back into pretty good playing shape,” BYU head coach Dave Rose told NBC Sports. “And a lot of it is timing; when they leave [for their mission] and when they get home. Some guys get home in August and that makes it really tough to get everything going before November.

“I think that the change in missionary age requirements won’t change the body type issue, as some of the bigger guys take a little more time to get back into playing shape, but the timing might be more consistent.”

The surprise for Rose didn’t come in how well Haws began the season, but rather in how he was able to play at a high level throughout the season. Without the full allotment of offseason training most college basketball players get during the spring and summer months, at some point in the latter portion of the season one would expect fatigue to set in. Haws didn’t hit a “wall” in 2012-13, reaching double figures in 34 of BYU’s 36 games and scoring at least 20 points in 25 of those games.

According to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers Haws ranked fourth in the WCC in offensive rating amongst players who factored into at least 24% of their team’s possessions, posting a rating of 115.7. Just 19.7% of the 571 shots Haws attempted from the field last season were three-pointers, and he made nearly 51% of his shots from inside the arc. With Brandon Davies (17.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg) gone Haws will attract even more attention from opponents, but that’s something the Cougars have already dealt with.

(CLICK HERE to read through the rest of NBCSports.com’s feature stories)

“Tyler was such a late-game, clutch performer for us, and I think late in the year I think everyone knew he was the option we were going to and that made it pretty tough on him. He got beat up pretty good, and hopefully we’ll be able to relieve that some,” noted Rose. “We’ve got more guys that are capable of making plays with the ball in their hands and I think that will help us.

“We’ll be a good shooting team, and then our post guys are very talented but they’re young.”

Since entering the WCC in 2011 BYU has won 22 conference games, but in both seasons they finished third behind traditional WCC powers Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s. With Matt Carlino and Kyle Collinsworth more experienced and improved front court depth, the hope in Provo is that with Haws leading the way BYU is ready to take the next step and ultimately win the conference. But in order to do that, BYU will need to be more consistent according to Haws.

“Consistency is a big key for us in winning the WCC, because I think we’re really good at times throughout the season and then at other times we’re kind of ‘up and down,'” noted Haws. “A big focus this year will be consistency and bringing it every single day and night that we play.”

Having a scoring option the caliber of Haws certainly isn’t a bad place from which to start.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.