Nick Emery, Eric Mika approach missionary age rule change differently

By Brady McCombs

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 27 2013 2:50 p.m. MDT

Rose predicts most players will follow Emery's lead and go in the spring, which should make the transition back into college basketball much smoother.

Missionaries generally have one hour of physical activity built into their busy, daily schedules. But they can do more if they choose to wake up earlier. It's up to the mission presidents how much somebody like Emery can play pickup basketball, though strenuous games that could lead to injury and compromise the goal of the mission are usually frowned upon. BYU sophomore Tyler Haws, for instance, played occasional pickup games while on his mission in the Philippines.

Though young Mormon men are expected to serve missions, it is not required. Some high profile Mormon athletes, such as Jimmer Fredette and Steve Young, skipped missions. But Emery and Mika are committed to continuing family traditions.

"Unless I'm scoring 40 points and getting 20 boards every game and going straight to the NBA, I don't think I'll skip out on a mission," Mika says, jokingly. "It will be good both physically and mentally. It will get me in the right mode to just be ready to work every day. And hopefully I mature physically."

Joe Nilson, Emery's Mormon stake president in Alpine, said Emery wouldn't have been scorned had he chosen to skip a mission and play college basketball, serving the church as a role model in a high-profile position.

"Here's a young man who is literally at the top of his game and he could go to a lot of different colleges to play ball," Nilson said. "And he's made the decision that he wants to be a missionary for the church. That says a lot about the young man."

There are high hopes for the BYU careers of Emery and Mika.

During their senior year, the duo teamed with junior shooting guard T.J. Haws to lead the Lone Peak Knights to a 26-1 record and atop the MaxPreps national rankings in what many considered one of the greatest seasons ever by a Utah prep team. After beating a host of national powerhouses around the country, Lone Peak doubled up Alta High School 72-39 in the 5A state championship game.

The team garnered national attention, and all three stars are ranked in the top 50 of their respective recruiting classes. Mika is ranked as the nation's 30th best player by ESPN and Emery is ranked 45th. Haws, who has already committed to BYU, is 39th in the class of 2014. Haws said he's leaning toward going on mission straight out of high school though he has yet to make a final decision.

Due to his epic high school career and the timing of the missionary age change, Emery is likely to become the poster athlete for this new option; with his career closely monitored to see if the new rule helped or hurt him. Emery acknowledges that it will be difficult to temporarily give up the game he's loved since he was a toddler, but said he's excited to see the world and preach the gospel.

"I feel like going on a mission I'll get blessed more — not only in basketball but for life as well," Emery said.

Follow Brady McCombs at https://twitter.com/BradyMcCombs

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