C.J. Wilcox and Tyler Haws started battling in sixth grade.
Even before each became their respective college team’s leading scorer, Wilcox and Haws would go at it.
They’ll have another shot at each other tonight when Wilcox’s Huskies (18-15) travel to play at Haws’ BYU Cougars (21-11) in the first round of the NIT in Provo, Utah.
Wilcox played for Pleasant Grove High School, about a 20-minute drive from Provo.
Haws, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard who averages 20.9 points per game, played for nearby Lone Peak High School.
From sixth grade on, Wilcox and Haws were intertwined by basketball.
In seventh grade, they played on an AAU team called the Wildcats and went on to play together on Salt Lake City Metro, which Haws’ father, Marty, a former BYU star, and Wilcox’s father, Craig, helped coach.
Then came high school. Pleasant Grove was in the same region as Lone Peak when Wilcox and Haws were there. Haws broke out his sophomore year, and became a sensation when he was named Utah’s Mr. Basketball during his junior and senior seasons.
Haws averaged 20.8 points per game his junior year in 2008. Wilcox led the state in scoring that season with 23.7.
As a senior, Haws poured in 23.4 points per game, Wilcox scored 22.2. Naturally, fans came out when they met twice a year.
“We played one time at our place and one time at their place,” Haws said. “I remember the games were sold out and the gym would be full an hour before the game even started. Standing-room only. It would just get so loud and crazy.”
Haws finished with 1,772 points in his high school career. Many rated Haws as the state’s top prospect and Wilcox second.
“We always had that respect for each other,’ Haws said. “It never got to a point where we wouldn’t talk during the game. Obviously, both of us are competitors and both wanted to win. They were always battles. We’ve never lost that respect for each other.”
The synchronicity of their high school days ended when they left for college. Haws stayed home and committed to BYU. Wilcox chose Washington after assistant coach Jim Shaw, who was looking at another prospect, noticed Wilcox at an AAU tournament in Houston.
Haws played his freshman season, then left on a two-year Mormon mission to Quezon City, Philippines. He played basketball once a week if he had time during his mission. Wilcox redshirted his freshman season before working his way into the rotation as a sophomore and taking over this season as the marquee scorer for the Huskies.
Haws spent the final six months of his mission jumping rope and doing other exercise in the Philippines to get his body in shape.
He was ready once he hit the floor again. Haws scored 22 points in BYU’s opener and was named to the All-West Coast Conference team after shooting 47.3 percent this season from the field and 38.6 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
Tuesday night, they get to go at it one more time.
“(It’s going to be) a pretty big crowd — knowing that I’m coming home again and that I’ll be playing Haws again,” Wilcox said. “It will be pretty big.”
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