BYU Roundballers Biggest Impact Off the Court

<b>(Aug. 17, 2003) Brisbane, Australia</b> – Forget the games. The BYU men's basketball team's most impactful and memorable performance was an off-the-court LDS Church fireside last night in Brisbane before more than 1,000 people.

It was at a large stake center filled to overflowing with youth, young adults and probably quite a few non-LDS members in the Brisbane area.

Funny thing is there isn't that many LDS people here who are basketball fans. But they came to see BYU's basketball team and listen to great inspirational talks from players Mark Bigelow, Ricky Bower, BYU head coach Steve Cleveland and an LDS Church Area Authority here from Australia (I forgot his name, which tells you something about me).

The entire team was there, including the non-LDS team members. They were all sitting behind the pulpit.

The talks were outstanding and touched many lives. I work in our Ward's Young Men's program and it was great to have them experience first-hand these guys who excel in sports, but also take spiritual matters seriously.

It really made an impact. We were able to get some young men to the game and last night's fireside who had not shown up for any Church meeting or activity for more than a year.

The reason I bring this up is every year – in the recruiting process –we often hear athletes talk about going to another school and how they can be an example for the Church and affect lives there. I remember all the great write-ups on Mark Madsen that had a stellar career at Stanford. I absolutely do not want to denigrate anyone who made the decision to go to another school. I'm sure they were effective in touching many lives and I really hope it always works out for them, wherever they play. The LDS Institute programs at these schools are great and they can be great examples to many people.

My point is simply this. It's different. BYU teams represent the LDS Church and it offers unique opportunities to touch many, many lives. The BYU men's basketball team came to Australia this year and had several hundred fans in Brisbane cheering their heads off for a team playing a game they didn't even understand.

Then they gave a spiritually uplifting fireside to more than 1,000 people who will always remember these tall BYU guys who came to this distant country and what they felt listening to them. The Area Authority also gave an exceptional and inspiring talk that most in attendance would never have shown up to hear if it were not for the BYU athletes.

Last night's experience is undoubtedly played out every year in cities across the country where BYU athletes from different sports share not just their athletic talent, but even more of their spiritual selves. I can't help but wonder what impact it also had on the non-LDS members of the BYU basketball team like Rafael Araujo, Luis Lemes and Kevin Woodberry and others – to see so many people attend a fireside like this in a foreign country.

Like I said, I really don't want to infer guys who decide to go elsewhere are wrong. But I think if they really understood the unique opportunities they could only find at BYU, many more would choose to be a part of it.

Just my two cents worth...

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