This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
After witnessing Frank Jackson's herculean performance in his final high school basketball game at Lone Peak, Brighton's Simi Fehoko tweeted his admiration.
"@FrankFjack5 Is the best HS basketball player I've ever seen. Unreal player. Good luck at Duke."
Ranked as Utah's top basketball prospect from the Class of 2016, Jackson returned his own acknowledgment of mutual respect to Fehoko, who signed to play at Stanford and is considered by some recruiting outlets as the top football player in the same class.
"@Simi_Fehoko Means a lot coming from the best football player. Thanks home boy! Good luck to you too my man."
The two are connected in more ways than athletic ability, however. As prominent recruits, both have used their national spotlight to illuminate their LDS faith, but with differing methods.
Jackson elected not to serve a Mormon mission and instead plans to enroll at Duke to pursue a basketball career, a goal unlike many professional sport pipe dreams that isn't implausible for his future.
Fehoko, on the other hand, was called to labor in Seoul, South Korea, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before playing ball on "The Farm."
Jackson moves into his future home in North Carolina on July 3. Fehoko leaves for his mission June 15.
"It was pretty easy," Fehoko said of postponing his collegiate career. "For others, I think it could be pretty hard to give up two years of your life. For me, it was super easy because I made that decision when I was young."
Jackson wrestled with the choice. He prayed. He fasted. Ultimately, he believed by forgoing his mission, he still could preach the Mormon gospel and potentially serve an official mission once his basketball career was over.
"As a little kid, you always want to serve a mission, but [not going] was a decision between me and [God]," Jackson said. … "I know [by] being a basketball player and someone a lot of people watch, I can make a big influence on people's lives. I think that's great. It's honestly a blessing."
Traveling across the country for various events has enlightened Jackson and Fehoko. When non-LDS peers realize both are Mormon, they typically inquire about specifics, which has led to many religious discussions and allowed them to correct misinformation including about polygamy, which the Utah-based faith abandoned more than a century ago.
"They all have that perspective [that] we all have 50 wives," Fehoko said. "It gives me a missionary experience to tell them what I believe and why this means so much to me."
Jackson said during dinner or long bus rides, camp mates are genuinely interested in hearing about his lifestyle.
"The opportunities I've had to share the gospel have been tremendous," Jackson said. "I've got multiple stories about how I was able to say, 'Hey, I believe in this,' and it made an impact on some kids."
Both said their religion always has been interrelated with athletics. From pregame prayers to their overall attitudes, both rely heavily on their faith.
Jackson points to a verse from the Book of Mormon, the religion's signature scripture, to highlight his commitment to Jesus Christ, while Fehoko calls upon a famous biblical passage: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
"It's the basis to our religion," Fehoko said. " ... It's helped me through all the troubles of sporting. All the stress that's come from this recruiting process. Being able to feel comfortable at a time when it's really not peaceful, I think is really big for me to know that I'm able to feel calm."
As the two students prepare to venture in separate directions in their life journeys, both used similar verbiage to describe their emotions of excitement and nervousness. Fehoko looks forward to deflecting the attention he's received and steering it toward others. Jackson said his main priority is "to please God over anyone," and basketball is his avenue to fulfill his career dream and religious testimony.
"My relationship with Heavenly Father is something I cherish, and that's the most important thing to me," Jackson said. "At the end of the day, it's better to be a good person than to be a famous basketball player."