PROVO — Nobody can call Skyler Halford a slacker.
In the realm in which he’s been playing, Halford’s nailed it for BYU head coach Dave Rose.
He came in as a hired gun and has been all about emptying his bullets.
Barring a failure by BYU to get into the NCAA tournament, thus an NIT berth and game at home, Thursday will be the final home game for Halford in the Marriott Center when the Cougars face San Diego.
“I’m just trying to be positive with myself, confident with my shooting,” said Halford of his role with his 20-8 team.
He was never going to displace Kyle Collinsworth, who has set an NCAA record for triple-doubles in a season, nor was he going to push out Tyler Haws, the nation’s second leading scorer.
His job was simple: help.
He’s always been driven to succeed, say his parents. He’s like the firefly in the bottle who wants to create as much wattage as possible. The oldest child of Jill and Rod Halford of Orem, Skyler is a driven guy.
“He likes to accomplish things," Jill Halford said. "If you tell him he can’t do something, he takes it as a challenge and he tries to prove it. He’s determined.”
When he was a little kid, his father found a piece of plywood and cut a round hole in it. “Skyler would shoot a ball in it for hours and hours," Jill said. "He had to put the basketball in the hole.”
In youth basketball, Halford's mom remembers her son being distraught when his team lost. The team played “up” against older competition and when they lost, Skyler would be in tears and couldn’t understand why the other players weren’t as upset as he was.
He is competitive by nature. He’s also positive.
“He doesn’t like negativity, doesn’t talk negative,” said Jill when asked what her son’s personality is like. “He’s easy-going, he wants to make sure people are happy and feel included. Times in high school when we’d be frustrated about a game or a coach, he wouldn’t chime in; he wouldn’t say anything.”
Described as an “instant energy guy” by teammates at Orem’s Timpanogos High back in the day, that is exactly what the Cougars got when they signed the Salt Lake Community College All-American two years ago.
It’s come in handy for Rose. He’s had Halford on speed dial. He’s thrown him in games like a lifeboat.
Halford plays fast and hard. He darts and dodges, gets in the key and finishes. He can lead or trigger the fast break and when called upon to finish, he can deliver on cue. Halford comes in relief or he runs off the bench because of a specific matchup. Whatever it takes, nobody can say he hasn't been prepared when Rose gives him the nod.
“I’m just trying to get myself open for my teammates when they're driving in there and kicking it,” he said. “Just trying to knock it down when the opportunity presents itself. That's just the name of the game for all of our guys. When your number's called, you just have to get in there and make a difference. I was trying to do the best that I can.”
Halford has scored in double figures in five straight games and eight of the last nine. He had a season high against Pacific last Saturday, matching his season high for the third time this season. A year ago he had 28 points against San Diego.
In the last 14 games, Halford has averaged 21 minutes. This has not been journeyman time but veteran time. With fellow senior Anson Winder nursing a groin muscle pull, Halford has averaged 25 minutes the last five games. Again, not a bone tossed his way but a real, substantial role.
For the season, Halford averages 8.0 points, 1.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists a game. He is shooting 46 percent from the field, 44 percent from beyond the arc, and 86 percent from the line.
BYU’s fast-paced offense depends on 3-point shooting in transition and it’s led to the Cougars leading the nation in scoring most of this season. Halford can comfortably say he’s got that. He can pull up and fire away from a dead run and he buries his share of bombs.
More than a year ago Rose called on Halford to play shooting guard alongside Collinsworth after the first four-game losing streak in his coaching career. To do so, he benched starter Matt Carlino.
It was a gamble. Carlino ended up leaving for Marquette after the season.
Halford will be a missed commodity by BYU basketball, not only for his hustle and skills, but his attitude.
In a lot of ways, teams win because of attitude a lot more times than they do because of collective skill.
It’s called chemistry.
Halford covers most of the periodic table for the Cougars.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at email@example.com.