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BYU basketball: Future Cougar hoop stars serving LDS missions throughout the world

Published: Monday, April 14 2014 3:20 p.m. MDT

Brigham Young Cougars center Eric Mika yells after a slam dunk during NCAA action in Provo Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PROVO — BYU basketball coach Dave Rose is thumbing through a blue binder that sits on his desk in the basketball office.

Listed on those pages inside the binder are the players who are serving, or are about to serve, LDS Church missions around the world. It includes information about when they leave, when they return, where they are serving.

Yes, the future of BYU’s basketball program is in far-flung locales, from Sacramento (Braiden Shaw) to Las Vegas (Jakob Hartsock) to Boston (Cory Calvert) to Germany (Nick Emery). In the near future, they’ll be in places like Italy, France and Panama.

For Rose, there’s a certain level of comfort in knowing that he has so many players signed, even though they won’t be playing for the Cougars for a while.

“That’s probably every coach’s biggest concern. Who will be my guys?” Rose said. “Where are we going to get them? How are we going to get them? For me, to know that we have these guys, we have a lot of guys serving their missions right now and I really look forward to getting them back and being able to coach them.”

Rose flips through his binder.

“I look at the names of these guys and we’ll have four guys come home off their missions next year, and five that will come home the next year,” Rose said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s good to know that they’re there.”

Soon, Eric Mika, who recently completed his freshman season, will leave for Italy. A group of signees is about to depart, including TJ Haws (France), Payton Dastrup (Panama) and Jake Toolson (Chesapeake, Va.). Orem High star Dalton Nixon is expected to receive his mission call soon, Rose said. And American Fork High's Ryan Andrus is expected to serve a mission after playing next season for the Cougars.

The coach keeps up with his missionaries’ experiences through email, though he keeps his communications to them limited.

“For the most part, I get the missionary letters forwarded from their parents. I keep up with what they’re doing from week to week,” Rose said. “I write them sparingly. It can be a huge distraction. Every word they dissect. They wonder, ‘What does he mean by this?’ When I served my mission and my coaches wrote me, it was, ‘Oh my goodness, what does that mean?’ So they know that we support them and are anxious to get them home. But we want them to feel really comfortable serving while they’re out there.”

During the two years that his players are serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Rose gets to know them on a deeper level.

“It’s amazing what your players are going through during a season and the challenges that they have. You try to help them through those things and watch them grow,” he said. “But it’s even more amazing to see the letters that come through.”

Rose recalls reading letters from guard Kyle Collinsworth, who served in Russia.

“I remember him trying to learn the language and how difficult it was for him to figure out what everyone was saying in Russian,” Rose said. “Then he had this routine of getting up early every morning to learn the language, day after day after day. Next thing you know, he’s interpreting for the mission president who doesn’t know Russian. Those are things where you understand that these are special guys.”

By the time those missionaries return to join the basketball program, Rose has a good understanding of what they can accomplish.

“When you present them with a special challenge, they have real experience in the approach of overcoming a challenge,” Rose said. “Those are fun things. It’s exciting to know that I’ve got a bunch of guys committed to our program and they’re coming for the next three to five years.”

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