C.J. Wilcox and Tyler Haws heated up the courts as high school rivals
Chances are the selection committee had no idea about the epic high school battles between C.J. Wilcox and Tyler Haws when it paired No. 6 seed Washington against No. 3 Brigham Young in the National Invitation Tournament.
However, the first-round matchup Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah., rekindles a storied basketball rivalry in Utah.
“Oh man, those games were something else,” Wilcox said while describing the clashes between his Pleasant Grove High and Haws’ Lone Peak. “Those games have always been big since me and Tyler were there.
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“We used to have people standing on the court. Had to close the doors an hour before the game. Those games have always been pretty hyped. Me and Tyler going back and forth.”
Playing high-school ball in Utah, Wilcox played against four players on the current BYU roster, including Cougars standout senior forward Brandon Davies.
But it was sophomore forwards Nate Austin, Josh Sharp and Haws who starred at Lone Peak and made life miserable for Wilcox on the basketball court.
“The same BYU team that’s there now was there in high school,” said Wilcox, who was 1-2 against Lone Peak. “They were tough to beat.”
Haws and Wilcox were considered the No. 1 and No. 2 recruits in the state, in that order, as seniors.
Still, they weren’t always basketball adversaries. They used to be AAU teammates and childhood friends for about a decade.
“We go all the way back to sixth grade playing against each other and with each other,” Haws said. “We’ve played a lot together. Won a lot of games together.”
Wilcox was born in Georgia and Haws is a Belgium native. Their families moved to Utah when they were kids. Their fathers played basketball at BYU and they dreamed about playing together for the Cougars. That was until plans changed for Wilcox.
“I kind of wanted to do my own thing and get away from it,” he said.
Wilcox, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, didn’t follow in the steps of his father Craig Wilcox, who wore No. 42 during his two years (1993-95) for the Cougars.
His dad was a defensive-minded player while Wilcox has developed a reputation as a perimeter shooter who leads UW with a 16.7 scoring average.
“He’s a shooter,” Haws said. “You can’t leave him open anywhere on the court.”
Wilcox gave a similar scouting report about Haws, a 6-5 sophomore guard.
In his first season since serving a two-year mission in Quezon City, Philippines on behalf of the LDS church, Haws is averaging 20.9 points, which leads the West Coast Conference and ranks 11th in the nation.
“He’s really aggressive,” Wilcox said. “Likes the mid-range game. Plays hard the whole game. Crashing the boards. Really good overall player.”
They kept in contact, but haven’t seen each other in about four years.
“I’ll probably end up on him a little bit,” Haws said. “I’m sure I’ll guard him. That will be a fun matchup.”
For Wilcox, it’s his second homecoming. Last year, he struggled while scoring just five points on 2-for-13 shooting when Washington played at Utah.
“I don’t think it was nerves,” Craig Wilcox said. “I think it was more about being focused.
“When you come home for the first time you don’t realize when people call, text and ask to get tickets — your mind is outside and away from the game.”
This time, Craig will try to shield his son from outside distractions, but admits C.J. has been besieged with phone calls and text messages from family and friends ever since the pairing was announced Sunday.
“It’s going to turn into a circus,” Craig Wilcox said. “The tough part is you want your kid to enjoy it, but at the same time it’s going to be nuts.”
The underlying theme Tuesday as it pertains to Wilcox is the game could be his last at Washington. He estimated chances that’ll he’ll return to school are 50-50.
“The thing that we have to make sure is that he’s running to something instead of running from something,” Craig Wilcox said. “That’s the key thing for us.
“You got to go through the evaluation process. See what they’re saying. See if they want you. Every kid wants to go to the NBA, you just got to make sure that’s an actual option for you.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.