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Provo • Colby Leifson's future was set during the middle of last summer or so he thought.
Fresh off a senior season at Georgia's North Gwinnett High in which he made 93 3-pointers, the second-most in Gwinnett County history, the 6-foot-4 guard from Suwanee, Ga., had the letter from LDS Church headquarters in hand. He was called to serve a two-year church mission in Santos, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and leave for Portuguese language training instruction Oct. 4.
Then BYU basketball coach Dave Rose called to float an idea past the all-county and all-region performer whom the Cougars previously only had talked to about walking on when his missionary service was completed. BYU suddenly had a scholarship available, vacated by either Jordan Chatman or Jakob Hartsock, and coaches were wondering if Leifson would be interested in deferring his mission call to next April. They offered a financial aid agreement (scholarship) for the 2016-17 season, and Leifson eventually accepted.
"I hesitated a little," Leifson said. "I was already kind of into that missionary mindset. My family and those around me were more on board right away than I was."
Leifson came around to the notion after consulting with his ecclesiastical leaders in Georgia and getting assurance from the church that he still could serve the same mission next spring.
So here he is, wearing No. 13, averaging 5.5 minutes per game and starting to do what Rose and his staff brought him to Provo to do: hit 3-pointers.
Leifson has made six 3-pointers, including two huge ones in the final six minutes of the 75-73 loss to Illinois at the United Center that kept the Cougars close. He has taken 20 3-pointers and one 2-pointer.
"It felt good to knock down a couple," he said. "Coach [Rose] said the way I shot the ball in high school and in summer ball caught their eye, so it felt good to deliver on that. Hopefully I can knock down a couple more here soon."
Up next for Leifson and the Cougars (11-4, 2-0 WCC) is a showdown with No. 19 Saint Mary's (12-1, 2-0 WCC) on Thursday in Moraga, Calif. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.
Rose said the keys to getting Leifson and the other 3-point shooters on track after a slow start has been practice, rhythm and shot selection.
"We talked to Colby about the opportunity of walking on here at BYU after his mission," Rose said. "Then we had some things that changed for us. We watched him play in the spring, and our guys had him high as available guards who could shoot the ball, really good shooters. … During the summer [recruiting] period, I went out and watched him play two or three times. That's what we felt was the biggest need for this group, was a real knock-down, perimeter 3-point shooter."
The Cougars had lost Chase Fischer to graduation and another excellent 3-point shooter, Zac Seljaas, to missionary service.
"We talked a little bit about maybe the possibility of him thinking about coming in the fall, and then he kind of ran with that, talked to his bishop, his stake president, all the support people involved," Rose said. "And then they came back to me and said, 'Hey, listen coach, if this is something you believe is good for your team, we all believe it is good for Colby, and we will make it work.'"
Despite living on the other side of the country, Leifson was very familiar with BYU because his mother, Jennifer, attended the school and his sister attended for a year before leaving on a church mission. His father, Ryan, grew up in Spanish Fork.
"It has been a great experience so far, and I am glad I made the decision," Colby said. "It has worked out perfectly."
He even is starting to live up to his Twitter handle: @Colb_As_Ice.
He explained that his dad is a big fan of the rock group Foreigner, whose song "Cold as Ice" topped the charts in the 1970s, well before the Cougar freshman was born. He thinks he's had the moniker for a "really long time." He chose it back in the eighth grade.
It was the first of a couple outstanding decisions.
BYU at No. 19 Saint Mary's
P Thursday, 9 p.m. MST
TV • ESPNU