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Saturday April 17, 2021 @ 01:55:13 PM mt

Is the pandemic the perfect opportunity for faith leaders to reach Gen Z

Photo Illustration by Alex Cochran

While Americas youths have not found solace in organized religion during the COVID-19 pandemic, new research suggests this might be a moment for faith leaders to connect with Gen Z

While many young people were stuck at home, Tiziana Friedman, 24, spent the first half of the COVID-19 pandemic working in an emergency room in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a Jewish woman, she found the work fulfilling from a religious perspective, but, as a person of color, she was troubled by the way Black and brown people were treated at the hospital.

I didnt have a crisis of faith but a crisis of faith in humanity, she said.

When a medical condition prevented her from returning to the emergency room, Friedman took it as an opportunity to pivot. She turned toward work with faith-based organizations.

Friedman, who describes herself as Jewish by choice, found jobs at Dimensions, a Jewish nonprofit that provides training in diversity, equality and inclusion, and the Jewish Federation, an organization that aims to help the global Jewish community. Both positions have deepened her connection to the Jewish community, she said, affirming her place in it.

In some strange ways my concept of God has become even more abstract (during the pandemic), but my spirituality has been strengthened through it with the people Ive surrounded myself with and the meaningful work Ive been doing, she said.

New data from Springtide Research Institute shows that Friedman was not the only member of Generation Z defined as those currently between the ages of 13 and 25 looking for spiritual connection in the past year. But she was one of only a small share who found it.

The study showed that while 44% of Generation Z tuned into virtual religious or spiritual services in the past year, only a small minority found hope or joy in them. Almost half of Gen Zers reported feeling isolated and alone during the pandemic, even when they had roommates.

Additionally, just 10% of young people said that a faith leader has reached out to them personally since the pandemic began, Springtide reported.

These findings suggest that in this moment of crisis lies an opportunity for religious leaders to reach out to Gen Zers. Its an opportunity that few pastors have taken advantage of so far.

So many organizations have no idea what theyre doing with young adults. No idea at all, Friedman said.

She and other Gen Zers, as well as religion researchers, argue that the way faith groups connect with young people needs to change.

Our spirituality looks very different than the generations before us, Friedman said. It doesnt mean that were becoming less spiritual perhaps less religious but definitely not less spiritual and I think thats something thats hard for older generations to understand.

The empathy gap

Building understanding is exactly why Springtide Research Institute embarked on its new study, said Josh Packard, a sociologist and the institutes executive director, explaining that there is sometimes a empathy gap in the way that older adults including faith leaders relate to those 25 and under. He hopes research will help older adults get a sense of how Gen Z is experiencing the pandemic.

Adults want to go back to normal because its possible to do so, he said. But for young people, these arent things that they get back to. These are things they just missed. Youre not going back to a graduation. Your graduation is just over.

Its also important to remember that todays young people are wildly diverse in their backgrounds and experiences, Packard said. You have to go beyond the research and get to know them on an individual level.

The path to understanding any 13 to 25 year old is not to understand them by their demographic slice but by who they are as a person, through their relationships, he said. In contrast to previous generations, who relied on an institution or authority figure to understand the world, theyre really relying on the relationships they have with other people.

Relationships can help religious institutions overcome the mistrust of institutions thats been building since the 1970s, he adds.

When Springtide Research Institute has asked young people to rank how much they trust different institutions, on a scale of 1 to 10, nothing gets a higher rank than 5.2. Religious institutions are middle of the pack, Packard said.

He added that mistrust doesnt necessarily extend to the people in that institution. While young people may never grow to love churches, they could eventually put their faith in individuals who are affiliated with one.

Institutions have to adapt

Friedman said shes seen the power of relationships in her own life, as well as the value of opportunities to do faith-based volunteer work. One of the ways shes strengthened her spiritual life is by connecting with Moishe House, which offers communal living for young Jews as well as social and educational activities that arent overtly religious.

Moishe House pretty much exists for young adults, younger millennials, and Gen Zers who want to be involved but arent flocking to synagogue, Friedman said. Pointing to the fact that there are rabbis on staff at Moishe Houses, she adds that even the placement of faith leaders needs to be rethought if religious institutions want to connect with more youth.

Maybe rabbis need to think about not being synagogue rabbis but a different kind of rabbi, she said.

Research suggests that religious leaders should, indeed, think about doing something far beyond the walls of their institutions, Packard said, noting that, amid the pandemic, many Gen Zers found joy and hope in the outdoors.

In order to enhance their outreach to young people, religious institutions need to provide opportunities so young Americans, as well as members of older generations, can live out their values, said Richard Flory, a research director at the University of Southern Californias Center for Religion and Civic Culture and the author of Back-Pocket God: Religion and Spirituality in the Lives of Emerging Adults.

Faith groups should also be aware of Gen Zers desire to look inward to develop themselves, he said.

Institutions have to adapt to that hyperindividualism, Flory said.

Most young Americans are not on spiritual quests, he adds. For those that are still spiritually active and searching ... it isnt a spiritual quest. Its a self-quest.

Matthew Blasio, 22, embodies that sort of Gen Z individualism. Raised Catholic, he spent part of his childhood thinking hed become a priest. But he broke with the church late in high school after deciding that his identity as a member of the LGBTQ community was incompatible with a faith that opposes same-sex marriage.

I was struggling with the fact that my spiritual basis said I couldnt love who I wanted to love and I couldnt get married if I wanted to, Blasio said.

Though Blasio still believes in a higher power, the experience left him with a mistrust of institutions, including organized religion. When he initially broke with the church, he got into the self-care movement. More recently, he said, my beliefs have been more rooted in spirituality and a mixture of Eastern philosophies and that has been a guiding thing for me.

While Friedman is currently affiliated with a synagogue but only because she was recently married there, she said with a laugh she doesnt regularly attend services. Her Judaism manifests in other ways.

We are not living Jewishly in the same way that our parents and grandparents are living Jewishly, she said. And I think thats something thats hard for older generations to understand.

She said that older generations are too concerned about external markers, like institutional affiliation, that young people are unlikely to embrace. It doesnt mean we dont love being Jewish and living Jewishly, Friedman said. We just have a different definition.

While Friedman sees the pandemic as a golden opportunity for faith leaders to try new ways of reaching out to the youth, Blasio is more skeptical. I wouldnt trust many adults to really have a grasp on what it means to be me, he said.

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Saturday April 17, 2021 @ 01:55:10 PM mt

How 5 service missionaries from one family have made an impact in their Arizona community

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Friday April 16, 2021 @ 11:27:16 PM mt

We are super grateful: BYU coach thanks NCAA for moving Sweet 16 match from Sunday to Saturday

BYU players celebrate a point during their NCAA Tournament victory over UCLA on Thursday, April, 15, 2021, in Omaha, Nebraska. In her post-match remarks, BYU coach Heather Olmstead thanked the NCAA for moving its third-round match from Sunday to Saturday, April 17, 2021. BYU does not play on Sunday, per school policy, due to religious beliefs. | BYU Photo

No. 16 seed Cougars will meet top-seeded Wisconsin Badgers at 6 p.m. MDT Saturday in an NCAA Womens Volleyball Tournament regional semifinal at Omaha, Nebraska

BYU womens volleyball coach Heather Olmstead wouldnt let the post-match news conference via Zoom end Thursday night without throwing a bouquet toward the NCAA.

After the Cougars fought off eight set points and swept UCLA 3-0 in an NCAA Womens Volleyball Tournament second-round match, the sixth-year coach thanked the NCAA for moving the third-round match away from Sunday to accommodate the schools religious beliefs.

Owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU does not participate in Sunday games or practices.

While the other seven Sweet 16 matches in the tournament will be played Sunday, No. 16 seed BYUs match with No. 1 seed Wisconsin will be played Saturday at 6 p.m. MDT at CHI Health Center Convention Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

As Thursdays news conference was winding down, Olmstead reminded reporters she hadnt had a chance to make an opening statement, as is customary for a coach in NCAA media gatherings, and used her time to congratulate UCLA on a great season and thank the NCAA.

We are grateful to the NCAA for changing up their tournament a little bit for us, Olmstead said. We talked about that as a team. We are super grateful to them for moving our match to Saturday. We are talking about them doing something that maybe has never been done before, and having to shift and adjust.

Wisconsin swept Big Sky champion Weber State a couple hours before BYU swept UCLA, so the move doesnt disadvantage the Big Ten champion Badgers. Both teams will have a similar amount of time to rest and prepare for the regional semifinal.

However, the regional finals are Monday, meaning the Ohio State-Missouri winner will have a quicker turnaround than the BYU-Wisconsin winner. Live scouting is not allowed at this years tournament, which is being played entirely at the CHI Health Center, due to COVID-19 precautions.

We are super grateful to be advancing in the tournament, said Olmstead, who owns the highest winning percentage (.894) of any womens volleyball coach in NCAA Division I history (161-19).

We are looking forward to playing the No. 1 seed, she said. We have talked about it as a team and we are (eager) to keep getting better, keep growing this team, keep seeing how good we can be, and keep getting back at it in practice and keep developing this team.

Wisconsin (16-0) went from Feb. 21 to March 21 without playing a match, then didnt play after that until April 1-2, sweeping No. 24 Michigan in Madison, Wisconsin, on successive nights. The Badgers played in the 2019 national championship match, losing 3-0 to Stanford in Pittsburgh.

I know our team, and our coaches, are so excited, and we are ready, said BYU senior middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg. We are going to prepare and be ready.

BYU is making its eighth Sweet 16 appearance in nine seasons.

Against UCLA, the Cougars made 16 blocks, the most team blocks in a three-set match since 2015, and held UCLA to a .115 hitting percentage. UCLA had seven set points in the second set, but BYU rallied and won it, 31-29.

A thing that was huge in those big moments and throughout the whole game was our energy, Eschenberg said. Our energy on the court, our energy from our coaches, from our bench, was just amazing and magical, so that really helped us in those moments.

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Friday April 16, 2021 @ 11:27:13 PM mt

Timeline of new Utah Jazz part owner Dwyane Wades career

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade holds his Most Valuable Player trophy following a 95-92 win over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Dallas, Tuesday, June 20, 2006. | David J. Phillip, Associated Press

Jan. 17, 1982: Born in Chicago Illinois.

2003: Led Marquette to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977. Was named a First Team All-American, becoming the first Marquette player since 1978 to receive the honor.

June 26, 2003: Was selected fifth overall in the NBA draft by the Miami Heat, becoming the highest draft choice in Marquette history. He was drafted behind LeBron James, Darko Milicic, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.

2004: Was named to his first of 13 career All-Star games.

2006: Was named Finals MVP as he led the Heat to the NBA championship. In the Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, Wade averaged 34.7 points per game.

2008: Won a gold medal with Team USA at the Summer Olympics in Beijing. Had also won a bronze medal at the 2004 Games in Athens.

2011-2014: With James and Bosh as his teammates, the Heat made the Finals in four consecutive seasons and won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.

2016-2018: Played for his hometown Chicago Bulls and with James on the Cleveland Cavaliers before being traded back to the Heat partway through the 2017-2018 season.

2019: Retired following the 2018-2019 season.

April 16, 2021: Became part owner of the Utah Jazz.

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Friday April 16, 2021 @ 11:27:10 PM mt

What to look for at Utahs spring game on Saturday

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham talks to the team after the Red-White game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 13, 2019. | Silas Walker, Deseret News

The Utes conclude spring practices with its annual spring game at noon at Rice-Eccles Stadium. It will be televised by the Pac-12 Network

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is looking forward to offering the public a sneak preview of his 2021 team Saturday.

The Utes conclude spring practices with their annual spring game at noon at Rice-Eccles Stadium. It will be televised by the Pac-12 Network.

Hopefully, everyone gets a good flavor of what were all about when youre able to watch the spring game on Saturday, Whittingham said.

Because of the pandemic, no fans were allowed to attend games last season. So, for the first time since the 2019 season, fans will be welcomed into Rice-Eccles Stadium. The school will allow up to 6,500 fans to attend.

It will be great, Whittingham said. Not everyone will get to go typically we get about 10,000 for the spring game. Its a step in the right direction. Just hoping that were at full capacity in the fall. That may be a little optimistic but thats what were hoping for.

The spring game will include four, 10-minute quarters with a running clock in the fourth along with an eight-minute halftime.

The roster is being split into a Red team and a Black team.

The Red team will be led by Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer; wide receivers Britain Covey and Solomon Enis; running back Micah Bernard; linebacker Nephi Sewell; and cornerbacks Malone Mataele and JaTravis Broughton.

The Black team is led by true freshman quarterback Peter Costelli, Oklahoma transfer T.J. Pledger, wide receiver Jaylen Dixon, safety Vonte Davis, cornerback Clark Phillips III, defensive tackle Tennessee Pututau and defensive end Maxs Tupai.

Brewer has solidified his spot as No. 1 on the depth chart. The Baylor transfer has separated himself from the other quarterbacks Costelli, JaQuinden Jackson, Cooper Justice and Bryson Barnes.

Sophomore Cam Rising, who earned the starting job prior to the 2020 campaign, did not participate in spring drills after he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the season-opener and subsequently underwent shoulder surgery.

Brewer and Rising will battle for the starting job this fall in August. Brewer said hes been developing good chemistry with his receivers.

Its been good. Its improved day by day, week by week. On our own, wed throw during winter conditioning in the offseason, he said. We got a head start there. Throughout the spring its improved every day. Those guys have made a lot of plays.

At running back, three tailbacks are competing Bernard, Pledger and LSU transfer Chris Curry.

Bernard has been atop the depth chart at that position but Whittingham said this week that Pledger and Curry have definitely closed the gap. Micah has continued to perform exceptionally well this spring. Hes still the No. 1 tailback. But both Chris and T.J. have shown a lot of progress.

What they need to do is feel comfortable with their assignments and their role in the offense. Theyre starting to do that and settle in, he continued. Theyre going to be contributors as well. Well see what happens through fall camp, whether or not were going to have one tailback getting the majority of reps or if its by committee. Its a good problem to have right now. We have three guys that we think are all very capable.

On the defensive side of the ball, one position to watch is at cornerback, which features Phillips, Broughton, Malone, Faybian Marks and Zamaiah Vaughn.

Whittingham said he feels good about the depth at that spot.

A lot of good things have transpired this spring. A lot of players have gotten much better, which is the objective. Weve identified some strengths of the team, Whittingham added. Its been a good, productive spring session so far. Looking forward to getting back into the stadium with at least some fans. It will be good to get in front of fans again. We havent been in front of fans since 2019.

Tickets to the spring game can be purchased for $10, or in a bundle of four tickets for $22, either online or by phone at 801-581-8849.

Student tickets will be available the day of the game at the stadium. Students can find out about claiming tickets from The MUSS social media accounts.

All funds raised through ticket sales to the spring game will go to the Ty Jordan Memorial Scholarship fund, established in January to honor the legacy of Jordan, who died in December 2020.

Face masks will be required for entry and must be worn at all times inside Rice-Eccles Stadium.

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Friday April 16, 2021 @ 11:27:07 PM mt

Donovan Mitchell helped off court after suffering ankle injury

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) is helped off the court and to the locker room after being injured against the Indiana Pacers in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 16, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

On what started as a celebratory day with Dwyane Wade joining the Utah Jazz ownership group and the crowd at Vivint Arena giving Wade a standing ovation during Fridays matinee game against the Indiana Pacers, quickly turned more somber.

A scary moment silenced the crowd when Donovan Mitchell lay on the court after turning his ankle.

Its something that you never want to see happen, especially when its one of your teammates and one of your leaders, fellow All-Star teammate Rudy Gobert said.

With just over eight minutes left in the third quarter, the Utah Jazz All-Star guard collided with Indiana Pacers guard Edmond Sumner. Mitchell jumped into the air in an attempt to deflect a fast break pass from Sumner into the front court. When Mitchell landed, his right foot got caught under Sumners leg and his ankle appeared to turn in a severe way.

Mitchell writhed on the court for a few moments before attempting to stand up but then collapsed into the arms of teammate Royce ONeale in front of the Pacers bench. He couldnt bear much weight on the right foot as he was slowly helped to the Jazz locker room.

Though the injury initially seemed severe, the Jazz later announced that Mitchell had a right ankle sprain and would not return to the game.

Mitchell will undergo an MRI on Friday night, but an initial diagnosis of an ankle sprain, and not something more serious, should come as a relief.

Obviously we hope that its nothing serious, Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said after the Jazzs 119-111 comeback win over the Pacers. Theyre in the process of doing everything they can do to assess that.

Mitchell had originally agreed to speak with reporters after the game, something not required of players who leave a game with an injury, which was another good sign. But Mitchell later opted out of a postgame interview as postgame treatment on his ankle dragged on.

Gobert and Mike Conley said that they briefly saw Mitchell in the locker room after the game and that while Mitchell was obviously upset about the injury, he seemed to be in great spirits and was even cracking jokes with teammates.

With the NBA experiencing so many injuries, and especially in the wake of Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray suffering a season-ending ACL tear on Tuesday, the fear of an injury that could seriously impact the teams playoff hopes is on the forefront of everyones mind.

Though the severity of Mitchells injury remains to be determined, the Jazz are hoping for the best and preparing for what could be an extended period without him.

Obviously Donovan is such a big part of what we do that, like any player thats out, you miss him, Snyder said. But you try to figure out ways to play well and win, regardless of whos available, because those things are going to happen. We have to be prepared for that, regardless of who it is.

With just four weeks and 16 games left in the regular season and five weeks until the playoffs begin, the next question that needs answering will be how long before Mitchell can return to play.

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Friday April 16, 2021 @ 11:27:04 PM mt

Analysis: Will Dwyane Wade make the team more competitive on the free agent market

Former Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade speaks during a jersey retirement ceremony at halftime of an NBA basketball game between the Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Miami. The three-time NBA champion and 13-time All-Star now owns a piece of the Utah Jazz. | Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

13-time All-Star now owns piece of the Jazz franchise. What impact might it have on the team?

Three-time NBA champion and 13-time All-Star Dwyane Wade now owns a piece of the Utah Jazz.

When the news dropped on Friday that Wade was joining Ryan Smith and the Jazzs new ownership group, there was a very understandable and natural reaction from the fan base and many pundits across the NBA.

The first thought that crossed most minds was, with the star power that Wade brings, what could that mean for the small-market Jazz and their ability to lure stars to Salt Lake City?

In a matter of minutes following the announcement, Jazz fans rejoiced, as if it were a foregone conclusion that Wade will be able to woo players who previously might have overlooked the Jazz as a playing destination.

On the surface, that makes sense. Wade is a mentor to many young players, including Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell. Wade is widely regarded as one of his generations greatest players, and hes respected throughout the league. He is revered for his philanthropic work, for his entrepreneurial ventures and for his post-retirement basketball acumen as an analyst for TNT.

Wade told ESPN that he wants to be involved in a lot of things when it comes to his role as an owner of the Jazz but what exactly that means, and whether it can bear out any of the fruit that fans may be hoping for, is still uncertain.

Before Wade can even begin to be involved in any sort of basketball operations, including possible recruiting or free-agent meetings, he would have to end his relationship with TNT. Like former players Shaquille ONeal and Grant Hill, who work as hosts and analysts for TNT and NBA TV respectively, Wade will be barred from taking part in any basketball operation involvement while working as an analyst, as to not violate the NBAs anti-tampering rules.

But, even if Wade ends his working relationship with TNT, it does not guarantee that him being a part of the Jazz ownership group will have any impact on what the Jazz are able to do in free agency.

A lot of this is in its formative stages and its probably not for me to try to wax philosophical about all the the various impacts of this, Jazz coach Quin Snyder said Friday. But I will say it is significant, and I think thats part of the reason that Dwyane looked at this opportunity as one where he can be impactful on multiple levels. Theres no one sphere.

Wade is the fifth former player to join the NBA ownership ranks along with the aforementioned ONeal and Hill, as well as Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.

Jordan first purchased a stake in the Washington Wizards in 2000 before selling when he came out of retirement the following year. In 2006, he purchased a minority share of the Charlotte Hornets and then in 2010, Jordan became the majority owner of the Hornets (then Bobcats).

Hill is part of the ownership group that purchased the Atlanta Hawks in 2015 and ONeal has been minority owner with the Sacramento Kings since 2013. Johnson became a minority owner of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1994 but sold his 4.5% stake in 2010.

Jordan, Hill, ONeal and Johnson are all Hall of Fame players and Wade, who becomes eligible for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2023, is a lock for induction as well. But, to this point, having NBA star power in an ownership position has not had much of an impact on free agency or the success of a team.

Hill became an owner of the Hawks in April 2015, just a month before the Hawks were swept in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Hawks have not made the playoffs in the last three years.

The Kings were sold to Vivek Ranadive in May 2013 and ONeal purchased a stake in the team in September of that same year. The move was seen as a part of the Kings trying to overhaul their image and reputation in the league, but they have continued to struggle to land top-tier free agents and havent been to the playoffs in 14 years, a league-leading drought.

Perhaps no star has more power than Jordan, but his ownership of the Hornets has not yielded anything that reflects his influence on the basketball world. Since joining the Charlotte ownership group in 2006 then taking over majority ownership in 2010, Charlotte has made just three playoff appearances, losing in the first round each time, and hasnt been viewed as a destination for star players.

Johnsons time as a minority owner with the Lakers cant really be compared in the same way since Los Angeles would be a premier NBA destination no matter the ownership, coaching or status of the team.

The difference between all of the previous examples and Wade joining Jazz ownership is the status of the team and current star power already on the roster.

No other former-player-turned-owner has come in when the team was on the rise, having made the playoffs in multiple preceding seasons and atop the NBA standings as the Jazz are currently.

Additionally, the Jazz had three All-Stars this season in Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley. Mitchell and Gobert have both signed extensions to stay with the Jazz long term, and there doesnt seem to be a rebuild or major flipping of assets on the horizon. If Wade does become involved in recruiting or free-agent meetings, his presence, along with the upside of the team, could give the Jazz more leverage, but theres not a precedent for that in the NBA, so at this point its just speculation.

Another piece of the speculative puzzle involves the even longer term future of Mitchell. The Jazzs leading scorer signed a five-year max contract extension in November, a deal that includes a player option after the fourth year.

When the details of Mitchells extension were reported, many fans worried that the player option was a signal that Mitchell would be leaving rather than opting to stay in Utah. But Mitchells relationship with Wade seems to have alleviated some of those worries.

Players are in such a unique experience that there really arent a lot of people in their peer groups that they can turn to, Snyder said. (Former players) can understand some of the things that theyre going through, so its just another example of the potential role that someone with (Wades) experience can fill, and obviously thats something thats been valuable to Donovan.

Mitchell has been training in the offseason with Wade since 2018 and has been modeling his game after the future first-ballot Hall of Famer for years. Their bond goes beyond just being fellow NBA players and has extended into mentorship and friendship.

To that point, if Wades influence has any impact on the duration of Mitchells career in a Jazz uniform, that could in turn be a draw in the future for top-tier talent.

Though theres no precedent for any of this, and although other former players becoming part owners of teams hasnt resulted in offseason or even in-season success to this point, Wade could be the player that changes that tide.

At this point though, all of this falls into the category of what could or might be. Add it to the list of things that only time will tell.

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Friday April 16, 2021 @ 11:27:01 PM mt

BYU basketball officially adds 6-11 Atiki Ally Atiki to its roster

BYU coach Mark Pope, center, is surrounded by his players during a timeout in the Cougars 73-62 loss to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament first round at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Saturday, March 20, 2021. | BYU photo

Atiki, who has a 7-foot-2 wingspan, is from Mwanza, Tanzania.He moved to Ontario, Canada, in 2018 to complete high school. He played at the London Basketball Academy.

The BYU basketball program has officially added another player from Africa to its roster.

Coach Mark Pope announced Friday that 6-foot-11 center Atiki Ally Atiki has signed a scholarship agreement with the Cougars.

We are incredibly excited to announce Atiki as the newest member of the BYU basketball family, Pope said in a news release. Growing up in Tanzania, Atiki will bring to our team a fresh world view and added diversity in our continued pursuit of the best locker room in America. He is humble, hungry and has an overwhelmingly-special work ethic that Cougar Nation will fall in love with. He is a gifted athlete with length, athleticism and touch around the rim. He is sure to become a fan favorite and have a major impact on BYU basketball and our entire community for years to come.

Last year, the Cougars signed forward Gideon George, who hails from Nigeria, and Fousseyni Traore from Mali.

Atiki, who has a 7-foot-2 wingspan, is from Mwanza, Tanzania. He moved to Ontario, Canada, in 2018 to complete high school. He played at the London Basketball Academy.

Atiki, ranked as the No. 5 college basketball prospect in Canada by Canadas National Preparatory Association, averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds in his junior season. Atikis senior season was heavily impacted by COVID-19 as Canada had limited sporting events during the pandemic.

Before committing to BYU, Atiki had scholarship offers from San Diego State and Oklahoma, among others.

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Friday April 16, 2021 @ 11:26:57 PM mt

In case you missed it amid the craziness on Friday the Jazz beat the Pacers

Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) celebrates a 3-pointer against the Indiana Pacersduring a game at the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Friday, April 16, 2021. The Jazz won 119-111. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

In the span of less than seven hours on Friday, the Utah Jazz gained a new minority owner in Dwyane Wade, lost their leading scorer in Donovan Mitchell to an ankle injury and came back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers.

It was quite a day for the Jazz with multiple highs and lows, but if you were only paying attention to the biggest news of the day, you might have missed the fact that Utah earned its 42nd win of the season and did so by dominating after Mitchell left the game.

Jordan Clarkson was back in the lineup after missing four games with an ankle sprain, but reserve center Derrick Favors was sidelined with a sore right knee. At first the Jazz turned to newly acquired Ersan Ilyasova to play some small-ball five behind Rudy Gobert, but the Pacers didnt seem fazed.

The Jazzs inability to stop the Pacers in transition, to keep them off the offensive glass and their hesitation on offense dug them into a 17-point hole in the first half.

Then disaster struck when, with just over eight minutes left in the third quarter, Mitchell collided with Indiana guard Edmond Sumner in the air before turning his ankle.

Mitchell couldnt leave the court on his own and had to be helped to the locker room. The Jazz initially diagnosed Mitchell with a right ankle sprain, but the severity of the injury will not be known until MRI results are returned.

Seeing him limp off, it wasnt good, and (I) knew that he probably wasnt coming back this game or might be out for a little bit, Mike Conley said. At that point our team kind of got together and said, Hey, this is part of the game, this is what we have to do, this is whats in front of us. Guys were going to have to step up.

And step up they did.

By the end of the third quarter, the Jazz and Pacers were tied at 89, with Conley sparking the run with his crafty moves on the offensive end and Gobert taking control on the defensive side.

The Jazz outscored the Pacers 30-22 in the fourth quarter, and with double-digit contributions from five players (Conley, Gobert, Clarkson, Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles), plus the 22 points Mitchell scored before leaving the game and some second-half reserve center help from Juwan Morgan, the Jazz rallied to beat the Pacers 119-111.

The Jazz will now head to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Saturday and again on Monday.

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Friday April 16, 2021 @ 11:26:53 PM mt

Furious comeback gives Utah its second-best nationals score ever and a shot at a national title

Utahs Alexia Burch competes on the balance beam during the NCAA womens gymnastics championships in Fort Worth, Texas, Friday, April 16, 2021. | Matt Strasen, Associated Press

Utah trailed Oklahoma and LSU heading into the final rotation of the second of two NCAA semifinals, but rallied to secure a berth in the championship meet

Utah was in trouble.

Through three rotations Friday night at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, the Red Rocks had gone head-to-head with Oklahoma, LSU and Alabama for the chance to compete for a national championship and had been found wanting.

Utah trailed both the Sooners and Tigers entering the final rotation of their national semifinal meet, and the gap between them and the competition wasnt exactly small. With only an uneven bars rotation left, the Red Rocks needed to be almost perfect to get the opportunity to compete for the national title and they knew it.

We were all a little down, sophomore Maile OKeefe said, not trusting ourselves.

With their season on the line, the Red Rocks could have crumbled. Instead, they had their best bars rotation of the season and lived to fight another day.

Utah scored a season-high 49.5125 on bars, which secured the programs second-best score at nationals ever a 197.600 and a berth in Saturdays national championship meet.

Oklahoma won the semifinal with a 198.0875, while Alabama finished in third place with a 197.5750 and LSU finished in fourth with a 197.5625.

Michigan and Florida advanced from the earlier semifinal, with a 197.8625 and a 197.4375, respectively.

I am a very fortunate man, Utah head coach Tom Farden said. I am surrounded by an incredible staff and athletes, just a group of professionals and bought-in athletes. ... Our motto for the weekend was no one is going to out tough us. We were going to be the toughest team here. We know that there is a lot of talent in the NCAA, but knew we were going to have to come in here and be as strong and mentally tough as possible and they showed that.

Throughout the season, bars had been arguably Utahs weakest event, but slowly and steadily the team improved, week by week, and it all culminated in a performance that Farden could only describe as incredibly incredible.

Ive been doing this for a long time, he said. I know bars. Weve played around with lineup spots and played around with mechanics and it takes time. It takes a lot of time to develop that throughout the season. Even before regionals, I told the athletes this is what we need to do and this is what will prepare us for the next steps. Today, I told them, What do we have to lose? I told them to be aggressive and use our swing.

It paid off, as Utah now has the chance to compete for its 11th national championship.

Defining moment

Utahs rally was completed on bars and there was no shortage of standout routines. The lowest score Utah counted on the event was a 9.8750 from Alani Sabado, while OKeefes routine earned her a 9.950 and an individual national title. Cristal Isa and Emilie LeBlanc each scored a 9.90, while Alexia Burch added a 9.8875.

The moment that changed the meet came before a single bar routine was performed, however, courtesy of Sydney Soloski.

One of three team captains, along with Burch and LeBlanc, Soloski gathered the Red Rocks together before the final rotation and all but willed them to their best performance of the season.

Going into bars, we were all a little down, said OKeefe, but then one of our captains, Sydney Soloski, got us to together and told us not to quit. She said, We are fighters and we are going to fight and show them what we are worth. That pushed us over the edge and then we had one of our best bar rotations of the year.

Soloskis leadership style is best described as vocal, even forceful sometimes, which was what Utah needed in that instance. But the Red Rocks wouldnt have pulled it off without the leadership of all of their captains.

I really appreciate all three leaders this year and the diversity they bring, Farden said. Sydney is very vocal, Lexi is one who a lot of athletes gravitate towards because she is a grinder and then Emilie is kind of like a big sister to them. Shell use compassion, but all three are needed.

Area of improvement

Almost unbelievably, Utah was at its worst on its best event. The Red Rocks opened the competition on balance beam, where they were ranked No. 3 in the country, and struggled. Mightily.

Nerves played a part, but Utah also just wasnt as crisp as it needed to be, bobbling unexpectedly on skills or dance elements that gymnasts had excelled at for multiple seasons.

I think we were all a little nervous, me included, OKeefe said. I had a really good beam routine but bobbled on some dance and didnt stick my landing and got a little frustrated.

No Red Rock scored better than a 9.8750 and the 49.2500 on beam was the teams lowest score on the event since its loss at Oklahoma the second week of the season.

Believe it or not, our start on balance beam was less than desirable, Farden said.

Utah wasnt perfect on vault either and scored just a 49.2375. The problem there stemmed from trying a little too hard to stick landings, and no gymnast scored better than a 9.8750, which was a bounce-back performance for Cammy Hall. Usual stalwarts like Burch and Lucy Stanhope were well off their norm.

We took a dip on vault, almost like we were trying too hard, Farden said. Three of our (Yurchenko) 1.5s had slight steps back.

Neither the showing on beam nor vault was close to Utahs best this season.

Area of excitement

Nothing was more encouraging than the Red Rocks showing on floor. The team followed up its poor beam rotation with a floor rotation that was better than any of the eight teams that competed Friday, save Oklahoma and Michigan.

Utah scored a 49.600, powered by four scores of 9.90 or better, including a national-best 9.9625 by OKeefe.

Our floor rotation was really nice, OKeefe said. Cristal (Isa) led us off strong and then I had one of the best floor routines of the year. I wasnt so confident going in, but during the routine I trusted my training and had some fun.

Floor was incredible, added Farden.

While the scores were impressive, it was the mental toughness shown by Utah that really stood out. The Red Rocks could have given up after beam, but instead bounced back in a major way and then did so again on bars after the showing on vault.

It all starts with Tom, OKeefe said. He is tough himself. Our motto this week was No one is going to out tough us. We were going to be tough. You cant really do that unless you have a tough leader. You have to have a tough leader to have a tough team, and Tom is really good with that. It starts with Tom.

Farden for his part refused all credit.

All the credit goes to the athletes, he said. They are the ones who did the hard work.

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