As in many places along the Wasatch Front, basketball was an important part of being a young man in an LDS Ward. For the vast majority of my youth, I was a member of the Preston 9th Ward of the Preston, Idaho North Stake of Zion in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church ball was particularly important in Preston, because our high school was just large enough that many excellent players and athletes couldn’t quite make the high school team, but small enough that everyone still knew each other–the perfect recipe for rivalries. Wednesdays in wintertime were intense–Game Night. I even remember some teams who, in making fun of the high school teams’ traditions, wore their Sunday clothes to school on Wednesdays.

When I turned 14, I became aware of an interesting fact about our ward: We were terrible in basketball. We had apparently been terrible for decades, too. Being a marginal basketball player at best, this was actually a good thing for me: most of the older guys didn’t bother showing up and so, despite my youth and lack of skill, I got plenty of playing time. Over the course of the season, we improved a little bit, won a few games, and I had a lot of fun. The Preston 9th Ward just didn’t really have the horses to compete with the better teams in the Stake, so we lost early in the Stake Tournament. We had improved, though, and prospects for the next season were quite good.

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