HIGHLAND, Utah – T.J. Haws
didn't even flinch when he missed a critical free throw at the worst possible time. The senior guard simply created another chance to make a play.
With Lone Peak (Highland, Utah)
clinging to a two-point lead in the final minute against Bishop O' Connell on the second day of the Great Western Shootout, Haws missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the line. Such a miss could shatter the confidence of a typical basketball player. Then again, Haws is anything but typical.
With the final seconds ticking down, and the game tied after a Bishop O' Connell basket, Haws let go a 30-foot runner as defenders closed on him. The ball beat the clock and swished through the hoop to give Lone Peak a dramatic victory.
The play sums up perfectly Haws' efforts to take on a greater leadership role for a Knights team carrying elevated expectations after winning a national championship a year ago.
"I've tried to be a leader ever since I was a freshman," Haws said. "I've tried to speak and say things that are important. But this year I've stepped it up even more. I have to be a leader as much as I can. I'm talking a little bit more and leading by example on and off the floor."
Haws is doing his part to give Lone Peak a satisfying encore to a historic season. He is the No. 2 scorer in Class 5A with 24.8 points per game through his first four games. Haws has scored at least 26 points in all but one of those games.
His impact isn't just felt due to his shooting touch. Haws does plenty of other things to make his presence felt, whether it's grabbing a timely rebound or making a precise pass to set up an open teammate. It goes a long way to creating good team chemistry and an unselfish playing environment among the Knights.
"If I were to really turn T.J. loose, he could get 30 to 35 (points) a game right now," Lone Peak coach Quincy Lewis said. "But he understands you've got to have balance offensively if we're going win the big ones."
What stands out most about Haws for Lewis is his ability to be mentally ready to play at any time and in any place. He never needs to worry about what he will get from him when a game is on the line.
"We've been in so many big games over these last three years," Lewis said. "He is remarkable in how he can mentally prepare himself to play at his best in those games."
Haws has been a major part of Lone Peak's success in each of those seasons because of his consistent play on offense. He averaged 13.8 points per game as a freshman, boosted his per-game average to 17.4 points as a sophomore and averaged 17.1 points as a junior.
Such production is not unusual considering the basketball lineage of Haws. His father Marty was a star for BYU in the late 1980s. His older brother Tyler helped lead Lone Peak to multiple state titles and is BYU's top scoring threat as a junior guard for the Cougars this season.
Haws credits his father's influence for shaping him into the player he is now.
"He always taught me to use my speed as best as I can," Haws said. "I get my quickness from him. He's taught me there's things you can't control – height, weight, athleticism. But we're going control the things we can. That's working as hard as we can and being the best player we can be."
Tyler also serves as a role model. For T.J., that doesn't simply mean following in his footsteps by committing to play for BYU. It also means having a perfect template for his own style of play.
"It's exciting to see what my brother is doing at BYU right now," Haws said. "I cheer him on. I'm his No. 1 fan. I love watching him play. I love his game. I love what he's doing. I love seeing how hard he's worked and where that's taken him. So I look up to him."
BYU is in his future, but Haws still has a little bit of unfinished business left ahead of him in the present. He would love nothing more than to finish his high school career as a four-time state champion – a feat that would also be a first for Lone Peak or any other school in Utah prep basketball history.
"It was definitely fun chasing history (last season) with a bunch of my best friends," Haws said. "This year's team is chasing history as well. No one has ever won a four-peat in Utah and so I'm excited for the challenge we have this year." John Coon covers Utah high school sports for MaxPreps.com. He is a former prep sports reporter with the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @johncoonsports