Mormons in sports: Jabari Parker, Brady Poppinga and other LDS athlete updates

Published: Thursday, Jan. 30 2014 11:55 a.m. MST

Duke's Jabari Parker (1) celebrates with teammates on the bench as time runs down during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Pittsburgh on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in Pittsburgh.

Keith Srakocic, Associated Press

With a little more than a month to go before college basketball hits March Madness, more discussion is swirling about the possibility of Duke freshman Jabari Parker serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Newsobserver.com's Laura Keeley recently published an article in which she talks to Joe Cannon, Parker's LDS bishop in Chicago, and his mother, Lola Parker.

Cannon said he never specifically asked Parker about serving because he knew it was already weighing heavily on the young basketball star's mind.

Lola Parker said the decision is Jabari's, and the family will support him no matter what.

“We’ve raised our children to make choices but also have integrity,” Lola Parker said in the article. “We’ve told Jabari either way, if you want to go, it’s fine.”

Brady Poppinga

As Super Bowl XLVIII approaches, Bob Wolfey of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that former Green Bay and BYU linebacker Brady Poppinga will be the analyst on the Fox Deportes telecast of the big game. This marks the first time the Super Bowl is airing live in Spanish in the United States.

Poppinga, who played for the Packers from 2005-2010, learned to speak Spanish on his two-year Mormon mission in Uruguay.

Trevor Reilly

Another returned LDS missionary, former University of Utah linebacker Trevor Reilly, underwent knee surgery, according to CBSSports.com.

Reilly, who served his mission in Sweden, is expected to be picked in the upcoming NFL draft. The surgery took place in January and is described as "a relatively minor arthroscopic procedure to clean out his meniscus," the article stated.

Reilly, a team captain and the Utes' leading tackler last year, currently ranks among the top five outside linebackers in the 2014 draft.

Crew Ainge

Terrence Payne of Masslive.com recently reported that Crew Ainge, the son of former NBA player and current Boston Celtics director of basketball operations Danny Ainge, will serve a mission before playing college basketball.

The 5-foot-10 Ainge is a junior point guard at Kimball Union, a New Hampshire prep school. He has already drawn interest from Rhode Island, Boston University and Utah State. He will graduate in 2015 and return in 2017.

Crew's older brother Austin served in the Dominican Republic before playing at BYU and another brother, Cooper, is currently serving in Chile, according to the article.

Mohelika Uasike

Finally, Corbett Smith of Dallasnews.com recently wrote an in-depth piece about the sacrifice Mormon athletes make when serving a mission.

"Athletes who serve as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) during their college careers must be willing not only to give up the limelight of collegiate athletics but also to jeopardize their own size, strength and skill," Smith wrote. "They also must be selective in finding schools willing to honor the scholarship offer upon return and patiently wait as they return to fitness."

The article features Mormon defensive tackle Mohelika Uasike, a recent commit to Utah State and includes comments by BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall.

“It’s a challenge,” Mendenhall said of athletes serving missions. “But rather than view it as a hindrance, we really look at how we make that experience into a great strength. We see the value in having them serve out in the world, and their value coming back to us as young men.”

Email: ttoone@deseretnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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