3 Mormon brothers grow together on and off the basketball court
BUENA VISTA, Va. — It's not unual for young athletes to be on the same team as their brother, possibly in high school or on a league team. But it's not very often that three siblings get the chance to play basketball together in a college starting line-up.
For the past two years, that's been the case for the Jacobson brothers at Southern Virginia University. The family from Kitty Hawk, N.C., stacks the team with guards Isaac and Anders and forward Jonathan Jacobson.
"From time to time I would have brothers on a team, but I never have three brothers on a team in 32 years of coaching," said head coach Tony Caputo.
Not only do they have the same last name, but all three Jacobson brothers look alike, which can be confusing for the opposing team.
"(In a recent game), one of the guys was guarding me," Jonathan said, "and another player on his team said, 'Hey, I'm guarding him,' and his teammate was like, 'What?' And he said, 'They're all twins, didn't you know that?' So I said, 'Uh, we're not twins, dude.' "
But playing together does more than confuse the other team: It's a dream come true for the young men's father.
"I think it's my dad's favorite fantasy," Anders said. "He comes to our games and looks like he is in heaven. He probably never imagined seeing all three of us playing together, but he loves it."
The two youngest brothers, Anders and Isaac, joined the team in the fall of 2010, but Jonathan just started playing with his brothers last season. Caputo says having the competitiveness of all three has helped push the entire team to new heights.
"They're pretty competitive with each other, but at the end of the day they always know they're brothers," Caputo said. "Their competitiveness with each other rubs off on the other players."
The brothers' natural chemistry on the court is hard to miss.
"We have good chemistry because we've been playing with each other for so long just in the driveway," Isaac said. "We all kind of know what the other person is going to do, so it comes very natural to play together."
Playing for Southern Virginia, an undergraduate liberal arts university with an LDS environment, has impacted their personal lives, as well.
Jonathan arrived at SVU in 2011 with his wife, Kim, who was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After talking about it with her off and on, Jonathan wasn't sure if she would ever be interested in joining his faith.
But only two months after their move to Southern Virginia, Kim began to become more interested in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"When she told me she wanted to get baptized it was a total surprise to me, actually," Jonathan said. "She really liked the examples of the people around the school and she just felt like it was something she wanted to do. I told her she should start out reading the Book of Mormon, and so about a month later after taking the discussions I was able to baptize her."
Caputo not only plays the role of head coach for the Jacobson brothers, but is also the bishop to Jonathan and Kim in the Rockbridge Ward of the Buena Vista Virginia Stake.
"We had other players on the team who were married just like Jon," Caputo said. "Their wives would come to the game and talk to Kim. They were really helpful and friendly and she just had a good feeling I think."
In December 2011, Jonathan and Kim were sealed in the Washington D.C. Temple. They recently had their first child.
"It definitely has motivated me to be closer with Heavenly Father and get more involved in the church, and reach out to other people," Jonathan said. "It's really strengthened my testimony of the church."
Just a short time after Kim's conversion, Chris Pendleton, the Southern Virginia sports information director, introduced Isaac to his sister-in-law, Ivy Kuroki — even though Pendleton himself had only known her for a short time.
"My wife Tiffany had never met her dad before," Pendleton said. "We got in contact with (him) and found out that she had these five siblings she had never met before. We went out to meet them, and they were all farmers in Nebraska who had no idea about the church. But the one thing we had in common was sports."
Kuroki ended up playing tennis and soccer for Southern Virginia.
"Chris introduced us last year," Isaac said. "We dated for about a year and she had a little interest in the church, but she had told me multiple times that she didn't think she would ever join."
Attending Southern Virginia was a very different atmosphere for Kuroki, but she gradually got used to it.
"She was very inquisitive because this was a new way of life she was learning about," Pendelton said. "But she went home with Isaac over Christmas break, and Anders and Jon and their whole family went home, and that's when things really changed for Ivy. She saw the whole family together and realized that's what she wanted. So when she came back from Christmas break, that's when she got really serious about the church."
Kuroki was baptized this past January.
Youngest of the three brothers, Anders has witnessed his brothers' experiences and grown himself. It wasn't until last year that he made the decision to serve a mission.
"I think last year especially helped with seeing Jon's wife Kim, because that was before I decided to go," Anders said. "I think it was really awesome to see how the church in people's lives can really change them. Kim was already really awesome before she joined the church, but just by seeing how strong she is in the church has really been cool for me to see."
Anders just recently received his mission call to the Colorado Denver South Mission.
The Southern Virginia basketball team recently participated in the USCAA National Tournament where it won a first-round game Wednesday against Lindenwood-Belleville, 91-79, but lost to No. 1-seeded Rochester College Thursday night, 59-47.
Sarah Sanders Petersen is an intern for Deseret News where she writes for Mormon Times and other feature articles. She is a communications major and editing minor from Brigham Young University.
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