Stanford player says LDS mission helped him with basketball
"I think that holds true in basketball, as well. You don't always want to go to practice, you don't always want to dive on the floor or cheer from the bench," he said. "As you continually try, it becomes easier. You can do it even when you don't feel like you can. That was a big realization for me."
Upon his return, Bullock earned his way back onto the Cardinal as a walk-on and used his redshirt. He was grateful to have Stanford assistant coach Mark Madsen as a mentor and friend. Madsen served a mission in Spain before playing at Stanford and nine years in the NBA. Madsen left Stanford to become an assistant coach with the L.A. Lakers.
Madsen was admired for exhibiting energy, attitude and consistent effort, Bullock said. Sometimes Madsen jumped in and played or participated in drills. Bullock said Madsen told him to be patient in regaining post-mission basketball skills.
"It was a wonderful experience for me to have him as a coach last year, especially transitioning from a mission to have a coach who understood my situation," Bullock said. "He was always focused and ready to go, always up, always aware of the situation and always enthusiastic to be there. He was always going all out, like during his career. That was the most contagious aspect of his coaching and it stuck with me personally."
Unfortunately, Bullock suffered a stress fracture in his knee cap at the start of this season and hasn't played all year. Even so, he doesn't consider himself "just a practice player," but a supportive teammate who is willing to make the other players better and do whatever is asked of him.
While still dedicated to helping his team this year, Bullock has high hopes for his senior year. He wants to end his career on a high note.
"After four years without playing, I want to unleash what knowledge I've gained and the experience I've accrued in order to validate what I went through," said Bullock, who serves as a Sunday School president in his LDS singles ward.
To anyone considering a mission, Bullock says go.
"The Lord has a specific plan and timeline for each one of us. For me, I left a year later than most people would and that was the perfect time for me. I would encourage everybody to go on a mission. Whether it's right out of high school or later, I never think it's too late to serve a mission.
"The mission was the hardest and most rewarding time of my life. Athletically it was a blessing. It has for sure changed my perspective on playing basketball.
"I've always appreciated the game for being more than a game. I feel basketball is a microcosm of life. You can learn about hard work, teamwork, communication and attention to detail. What a mission did for me was give me the opportunity to go and apply those in real-life situations and gain a deeper understanding of what those things mean. I've been able to bring that perspective back with me to Stanford. It's helped to shape my life in the way I want it to go."
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