PROVO — When BYU guard Tyler Haws left for his mission to the Philippines two years ago, the Cougars were members of the Mountain West Conference, and nobody knew that Jimmer Fredette was on the verge of becoming the national player of the year.
Haws returned home two weeks ago, and has started preparing for his sophomore season. On Wednesday, he answered questions from the local media at the Smith Fieldhouse on a variety of topics, including his mission, his role on next year's team, and his health.
"I feel great," said Haws, who wore a BYU hooded sweatshirt. "It's been great to get back and be on BYU's campus again and start the next chapter."
Haws, a former Lone Peak High star, turned in one of the best freshman seasons in Cougar history in 2009-10, starting 33 games and averaging 11.3 points and 4.2 rebounds. He also owns an ongoing school record, having made 48 consecutive free throws.
How much has he thought about that streak?
"A little bit," he said, then quickly adding, "I've just got to make the next one."
BYU is expected to rely heavily on Haws next season, especially his shooting and scoring abilities.
Despite the two-year layoff from college basketball, Haws said he expects "to pick right up where I left off. I expect to be on the floor, to play and just help my team win however I can."
Haws said he will contribute "wherever I can help. I feel like I can score in many different ways. That's one of my strengths. When they take away something, I do something else. I'm excited to step in and just help however I can."
For now, the main focus for Haws is getting back into playing shape. After consulting with BYU coaches, he is avoiding pickup games but spending most of his time on individual work, including lifting weights and shooting with his dad, Marty, a former Cougar star.
"We've shot a few different times," Haws said. "It feels good to get back in the gym with him. We've been in the gym a lot together. It's been fun getting back into it."
During his freshman season, Haws weighed between 200 and 205 pounds. He dropped to about 190 pounds on his mission. "I'm trying to get that weight back and gain some muscle back," he said.
When it comes to getting in shape, Haws said, "It's a process. It will take a while. I'm ready to be patient with myself and just take it one day at a time."
He added that he will be ready to go by the time the team convenes for official practices in October.
"I expect by that time to be in pretty good shape," he said. "It will be a process to get to that point. I'm ready to be patient and take one step at a time and try to stay healthy."
Haws said being away from the game has actually helped him in some respects.
"I feel like I learned lots of different skills on my mission as far as being vocal, and being a leader," he said. "I think those things will help me going forward in the BYU program."
Basketball is popular in the Philippines, Haws said, which means he had opportunities to play a little during his mission.
"They love basketball over there," he said. "We played on P-day and sometimes on Saturdays with members in our ward. I played a different position over there. Everyone's small, so I was kind of a center over there … I just had fun with them. The Filipino people are great. I miss them."
While Haws was serving in the Philippines, there were plenty of high-profile happenings within the BYU program, including the move to the West Coast Conference and Fredette's amazing senior season.
"My dad tried to keep me informed," Haws said. "Being in the Philippines, you're pretty far removed from it. But I heard Jimmer did some great things. They had a few great seasons. I'm happy with where the program's at right now."
His reaction to Fredette being named the national player of the year?
"I was so excited for Jimmer," he said. "I was in a little Internet shop when I found out, just reading my e-mails. I couldn't be happier for him. Jimmer's a great guy. I got to know him really well my freshman year. Just to hear the things he did was awesome."
On Tuesday, Haws talked to Jordan Chatman, a BYU signee who entered the Missionary Training Center on Wednesday. Chatman has been called to serve in Taiwan and will start his collegiate career with the Cougars in 2014-15, when Haws is a senior.
Haws' dad, Marty, and Jordan's dad, Jeff, played together at BYU in the late 1980s.
"Jordan's a good friend, a great kid," Tyler Haws said. "I'm excited to play with him when he gets back. I know all of those feelings that he's feeling."