Alaska, college hoops and true love: The Jacob and Emily Craft story

Published: Thursday, Feb. 13 2014 7:00 a.m. MST

For him, it was love at first sight in a Wyoming parking lot.

For her, true love came after putting him through the nice-guy test.

More than a year later, Jacob and Emily Craft are married and attend the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he is a 6-foot-7 forward for the men’s basketball team and she is a 6-foot-2 center for the women’s team.

The story of how the towering, redheaded Jacob Craft found his tall bride in Wyoming, their courtship and how they ended up in Alaska is an interesting one. Amid the drama of basketball and college life, their relationship has been strengthened by their LDS faith and temple marriage.

“Our temple marriage has given me a sense of security, knowing the promises we have made to each other as man and wife exceed the bonds of this life,” Jacob Craft said in a phone interview with the Deseret News. “Whether school is difficult or I’m having a hard time, she will always be there to support me.”

“Knowing you have a special bond that lasts longer than this life means everything,” Emily Craft said.

A Wyoming parking lot

Scoping out the dating scene at Central Wyoming College was far from Jacob Craft’s thoughts when he pulled his car into a Riverton, Wyo., parking lot in the fall of 2012.

Why was he even there?

Craft was there on a basketball scholarship, an impressive feat considering he was cut from the Jordan High School basketball team as a senior.

After serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Norway, Craft still believed he could play at the next level. Mentally strengthened by his mission experiences, he invested significant time in workouts at ASAP Training and E3 Basketball in Orem, Utah, in hopes of earning a tryout with a college team.

Once in shape, Craft drew interest from Dixie State, Southern Utah, Weber State and BYU-Hawaii, but their rosters were full. Finally, Central Wyoming, a junior college, offered him a scholarship and Craft gratefully accepted.

“It was a great blessing,” he said. “After I committed, I was a little uneasy about my decision, but through contemplation and prayer, I came to the conclusion it was the right place to go, that something good would arise from it. And that’s where I met my wife.”

As he stepped from his car, the pretty face of a girl with dark hair immediately came into view. Craft experienced one of those time-stopping magical moments.

“The thing that attracted me to her right away was that I could see her above the cars,” Craft said. “When I first saw her, I had the feeling that she was the one. ... I basically fell in love at first sight.”

Nice-guy test

She was a sophomore, and her name was Emily Smith. She came from a family of tall women and was a member of the school’s women’s basketball team. Over the next few weeks, they saw each other often but didn’t really talk until one day at church.

“On a campus of about 2,000 students, we attended an LDS branch of about 30 people,” Jacob Craft said. “It was easy to find her.”

As Emily Craft remembers it, he first approached her in a class.

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