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High school national champion Lone Peak players value Mormon faith, service

Published: Thursday, Jan. 30 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

Elders Nick Emery and Talon Shumway at the Missionary Training Center in the spring of 2013. Emery and Shumway were teammates at Lone Peak High School.

Provided by Derek Emery

Editor’s note: Following is the first of two stories on the 2012-13 Lone Peak High School boys basketball team. Today’s story focuses on the influence of faith on the boys and their development outside of basketball. Part 2 will focus on how these players have thrived, even though young men in the broader culture face significant personal, educational and economic challenges.

Talon Shumway had something to say.

The senior was in class at an LDS seminary building next to Lone Peak High School in Highland, Utah, part of a clean, quiet, affluent community nestled below a towering Mt. Timpanogos and not far from a Mormon temple. The instructor had asked for a volunteer to share a spiritual message as part of an opening devotional. Shumway immediately raised his hand.

For almost 20 minutes, the young man talked to his peers about having just finished reading the Book of Mormon for the first time. He spoke about kneeling by his bedside and praying to God to know if the book was true. He felt nothing and continued to wrestle with the question late into the night. He described how he was about to give up, but was then overcome by a powerful, reassuring feeling of peace. It was overwhelming and he couldn’t deny it, Shumway told them.

"Talon testified of the Book of Mormon and challenged the other students in the class to find out for themselves," said Dwight Durrant, a religious educator for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was teaching the class and recounted the moment for the Deseret News. "As a seminary teacher, if I tell that same story, it wouldn’t mean as much. But Talon Shumway ... he’s a rock star. The students were hanging on every word.”

For months, Shumway had been standing on the pinnacle of athletic success. He and his Lone Peak High School basketball teammates had finished the season with a 26-1 record, including wins over several of the top high school programs and players across the country; a third-straight Utah state title and, ultimately, a national championship. The team had been featured in the New York Times and appeared on the Today Show. Shumway had signed a letter-of-intent to play football at Brigham Young University. Three of his teammates — Nick Emery, Eric Mika and T.J. Haws — were considered elite prep basketball recruits and had all accepted scholarships to play at BYU.

The 2012-13 Knights took their basketball seriously. They trained hard and crushed opponents, often winning by more than 30 points. Athletics seems destined to be a big part of the future for many team members, as well. But for these decorated prep athletes, true success had more to do with living a balanced life, making good choices and serving others, according to many parents, teachers and other observers who followed the team's journey. It meant being a good example to others, putting an arm around the team manager with special needs, displaying sportsmanship and deepening their religious convictions.

“Basketball is such a small part of who they are,” said Marty Haws, father of T.J. and a former Utah prep standout and BYU basketball player. “Yet it has been a vehicle to do the things they want and aspire to.”

Quiet impact

They were “a team of lanky, long-armed teenagers who looked only slightly more imposing than a chess club,” according to Dan Frosch of the New York Times, who wrote about Lone Peak last February.

Yet the Knights earned national respect with their play.

As the squad traveled the country and faced off against some of the top competition in the nation, Lone Peak was praised for its team-oriented style of play.

But some observers were also curious about the players for other reasons, according to Debbie Lewis, the wife of Lone Peak head coach Quincy Lewis.

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