Jonathan Tavernari may be a gambler with his basketball shot.

He's got mega-confidence in his game. If it were a dispensable, projectable matter, it could be spread to cover a couple of basketball teams.

Last Saturday, Tavernari had a good game, shooting himself out of a little slump in Brigham Young University's blowout win over New Mexico. He'd made just 1-of-13 shots going into the game but hit his first five in a row that night.

In previous games, he could hear people yelling from the stands to not shoot, but he heard others encouraging him to keep firing away.

In the world Tavernari lives in, he sees hope where others see failure. He senses opportunity where others may shrink away.

This past weekend was just one such weekend for the native of Brazil with the NBA-range shot. The death of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley this past Sunday left Tavernari mourning a new friend he had just found, and he was not ashamed to share his love for the LDS leader.

Tavernari joined the LDS faith two years ago. He is part of the one-third of the members of that faith who have only known one president, one prophet — President Hinckley.

For the last 30 months, Tavernari came to appreciate President Hinckley's humility, his clarity of thought, his instant connectivity, authentic spirit, directness with words, balance, unyielding faith, wisdom, stability and an innate goodness that he projected to people throughout many countries.

"Whenever I heard him talk, it was like he was speaking directly to me, specifically to me," said Tavernari.

President Hinckley's death brought Tavernari a different kind of Sunday after his successful athletic performance the day before.

"It's sad. I'm a convert to the church, I joined just over two years ago and he's the prophet of my generation. He was a person I always looked up to," Tavernari said. "Whenever I heard him talk in a priesthood session, it was as if he and I sat down and were talking. I just really felt his spirit when he talked."

In the short time Tavernari got to know his prophet, he said it stood out that he took the religion more deeply to the corners of the world.

"He grew the number of temples, missionary work increased, there was tremendous growth of the faith. It's sad — he will be missed," said Tavernari.

"The whole concept of the church grew worldwide because of him, and the impact he had was just huge.

"But you know, he's in a better place now. He's with his wife. Every time he gave a talk, it seemed like he spoke of her and told of his love for her and missed her.

"It's a shame that we lose him and it's a bad thing, but it's also good, it's a part of the plan of salvation he preached to all of us, that life goes on," Tavernari said.

"It looks like President (Thomas S.) Monson will take his place, and it's a neat thing. As long as we're all faithful, the plan is going to work. It's a sad thing, but really, he's in a much better place right now."

Tavernari's short eulogy of the departed church leader was spontaneous; it came after practice on Monday before BYU's road trip to Air Force. He'd been shooting the ball with Lee Cummard after many other players had left the court.

Tavernari's always been one with words. He's very expressive and likes to visit and say his piece.

A lot of athletes — not all, but many — would shy away from expressing their feelings so openly and in detail about a spiritual leader, opting to shift out of the moment to something more palatable and explainable.

But not Tavernari. His eyes got wide and his focus shifted from the sport of basketball to the man he admired so much when asked about the passing. He tried to share what he really felt inside, and make it more than a sound-bite on the way to the showers.

In this regard, Tavernari did not "muff it" — an echo of President Hinckley's much-quoted advice to the 2000 football team on the day the LDS Church named the stadium after LaVell Edwards.

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