They sat in dorm-style rooms together, hung out. Even talked some religion.
Tyler Haws made an important friend last summer. Their closeness may be best exemplified right now in their preparation and mindset to play and lead; how valuable they are to their respective college teams — and let's not forget the scoring.
Doug McDermott, a senior who's stayed around Creighton, is the frontrunner for national player of the year. Tyler Haws, a junior, doesn't get nearly the same national attention (yet?) but happens to be right next to him in the national listing of most prolific basket fillers this season.
"Every time I watch him, I root for him," Haws said.
Their mutual respect may best be understood by their responses to talk about the other. Creighton, for obvious reasons — think Fredette-apalooza a few years ago in Provo — has tried to tone down phone interview opportunities on their star. But McDermott was more than happy to take a few minutes to answer some Daily Herald questions about "as nice of a person as I've ever met."
Haws finished his standard game-week preview interviews Tuesday, then gladly took a few more questions about his University Games teammate.
"Just a great guy," Haws said.
They became friends during the summer, when they were part of a select group of American college players. The contingent had try-out sessions in Colorado Springs, Colo., and then competed in Russia.
That became a rare time Haws was a role player. But he recalled getting to know someone who was even the star of that team, but never acted like it.
McDermott was the one asking short-term teammates how they were, who they were — then the little things that are a big deal in leadership, like if they wanted to go catch a movie.
The most influential aspect for Haws, however, may have been a McDermott-induced reminder if not an all-out lesson for a great scorer in his own right: Keep attacking.
Haws remembered a particular point of tryouts.
"Doug just has a shooter's mentality," Haws said. "There was a certain part of that whole deal, he just wasn't shooting well. Then he got going, and really caught fire. He just always stayed positive. He was always looking for his next good look."
BYU has needed every bit of that temperament the last couple of weeks as he's salvaged BYU (16-9, 8-4 West Coast Conference) from a season of relative despair (some schools actually would love an NIT bid) to fighting for sole possession of second place Saturday night with a home game against San Francisco (7 p.m., Marriott Center).
Creighton (18-3) appears safely in the NCAA Tournament.
The friends tweet at each other once in a while, but both say their communication is virtually nil at this point in the season. Neither knew exactly where the other stood as far as personal stats.
It's certainly worth others knowing.
McDermott is ranked second nationally in scoring at 25 points per game. The Bluejays haven't suited up since Jan. 28, when he poured in 39 and a game-winner against St. John's.
Haws is right behind, 24.7, and is gaining national attention for producing 169 points in the last five games.
They are the brightest stars in a national constellation of top scorers that isn't all that amazing. That's not exactly a surprise.
The Division I scoring leader is Antoine Mason of Niagara (26.6), which has a losing record, and the others schools in the top 10 feature only two power-conference members: T.J. Warren of North Carolina State at No. 9 and Oregon State's Roberto Nelson right behind him, both hovering close to 22 points a game.
What's interesting is just how similar their stat lines are between Haws and McDermott, despite different ways of getting points. McDermott at 6-foot-8 is three inches taller.
Haws takes an average of 16 shots a game and is shooting 48 percent. "McBuckets," as some national writers glowingly call him — no big-splash nickname for Haws yet — averages 17 shots and is at almost 50 percent from the field.
Neither is particularly bomb-happy from 3-point range, though both have that threat.
Haws only takes about three a game, despite shooting 46.6 percent (eight percentage points higher than last year). McDermott takes nearly six a game; 44 percent.
They both pad their numbers at the foul line, which is a compliment. Not only do they get there, but they make their shots.
Combined, they've made 270 fouls shots and are at nearly a 90 percent clip.
That's a lot like Jimmer Fredette, who has influenced both players.
McDermott's Cougar run-ins may have come full circle, as he acknowledges.
"I've thought a lot about that game," he said.
McDermott was a scrawny freshman playing for his father (Greg McDermott, who had left Iowa State) for the first time when BYU visited Creighton early in Fredette's senior year. It was on the way to Fredette becoming the consensus national player of the year — a post McDermott is approaching.
The hype wasn't quite there for either guy yet, at that freezing-temperatures point in the season in downtown Omaha, Neb.
"I'll never forget playing against Jimmer," said McDermott.
It wasn't one of the BYU great's better games (13 points on 5-of-15 shooting) but McDermott and Haws talked about that game while sitting around the athlete village in central Russia (Kazan).
"He said 'you guys killed us'," Haws said with a laugh, though McDermott produced 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting in the 12-point defeat.
McDermott did the math and wondered why Haws wasn't on that team.
"But when I told him I was on a mission, he understood exactly what I was talking about. He knew a lot more about the LDS culture than I would have thought. He told me that would've been interesting, how there would've been even more scoring from BYU had I been there."
BYU (16-9, 8-4 West Coast Conference) vs. San Francisco (15-9, 8-4)
7 p.m., Marriott Center
Radio: KSL 1160 AM (102.7 FM)
Tip-ins: Winner has sole possession of second place in the WCC, trailing Gonzaga (11-1). ...BYU lost last year's meeting with USF in Provo, but won earlier this season at USF (83-76) on Jan. 16 and is 4-1 as West Coast Conference affiliates. ...USF has 4 players averaging double digits in scoring, led by 6-7 forward Cole Dickerson (14.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg).