Gonzaga basketball player chooses LDS mission over NCAA Tournament run

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

SALT LAKE CITY - It's a moment most parents would dream of, and the chance to watch his son play in a NCAA Tournament is almost too good for Utah's Eric Wade to imagine.

"I'm so excited," Wade said, while walking into Vivint Smart Home Arena Thursday morning.

Wade's son, Jesse, committed to Gonzaga University two years ago, when he was named Mr. Basketball as the best high school player in the state of Utah.

Salt Lake City is hosting two of the top four teams in the country during the opening two rounds of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, and one of those teams is Gonzaga.

But as Wade and his younger son, Josh, walked into the arena Thursday, they had no expectation of watching Jesse play.

"He's serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the France, Lyon Mission," Eric Wade said of his son. "It was something that was important to him ever since he was a little kid."

Although it's common for athletes in Utah to take time off to go on mission, Gonzaga is a Catholic university. In fact, no recruit in the program's history has deferred enrollment.

"We are so appreciative for Coach Few for believing in Jesse, and planning on him being gone for a couple years," Eric Wade said of Gonzaga Coach Mark Few.

Gonzaga struggled from the field early in their first round match-up, but came on strong in the second half for the win.

Walking off the court, Coach Few noted, "We could have used Jesse today, he can shoot a three-pointer from 30 feet away."

31 PHOTOS
Inside the first round of March Madness, 2017
See Gallery
Inside the first round of March Madness, 2017
Mar 16, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Princeton Tigers guard Devin Cannady (3) dribbles against Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Rex Pflueger (0) in the first half during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Virginia Cavaliers guard Darius Thompson (51) shoots against North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks forward Devontae Cacok (15) during the first half in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 16: Mike Daum #24 of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits handles the ball against Johnathan Williams #3 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 16, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 16: Marial Shayok #4 of the Virginia Cavaliers reacts after a collision against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Amway Center on March 16, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 16: Chris Howell #3 of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits competes for a loose ball with Nigel Williams-Goss #5 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the first half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 16, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 16: Kelan Martin #30 of the Butler Bulldogs attempts a shot while being guarded by Xavier Cooks #12 of the Winthrop Eagles in the first half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 16, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 16: Przemek Karnowski #24 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs shoots in the first half against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 16, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 16: The West Virginia Mountaineers huddle up prior to their game against the Bucknell Bison during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 16, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 16: Michael Orris #50 of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits drives to the basket against Przemek Karnowski #24 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the second half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 16, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 16: Jevon Carter #2 of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts as he falls to the ground against the Bucknell Bison during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 16, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Mar 16, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Khalil Iverson (21) shoots against Virginia Tech Hokies guard Ty Outlaw (42) and forward Zach LeDay (32) in the second half during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack guard Josh Hall (33) falls on Iowa State Cyclones guard Monte Morris (11) while battling for the ball during the second half of the game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida Gulf Coast Eagles guard Rayjon Tucker (3) reacts after making a three point shot against the Florida State Seminoles during the first half in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 16: Elijah Long #55 of the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers shoots against Mikal Bridges #25 of the Villanova Wildcats in the second half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 16, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 16: Marcus Marshall #1 of the Nevada Wolf Pack attempts a shot between Monte Morris #11 and Nazareth Mitrou-Long #15 of the Iowa State Cyclones in the second half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 16, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 16: Kadeem Allen #5 of the Arizona Wildcats dives on to the scorers table to save the ball against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 16, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - MARCH 17: Ian Baker #4 of the New Mexico State Aggies defends Ishmail Wainright #24 of the Baylor Bears in the second half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at BOK Center on March 17, 2017 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
GREENVILLE, SC - MARCH 17: Angel Delgado #31 of the Seton Hall Pirates with the ball against Dustin Thomas #13 and Moses Kingsley #33 of the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first half in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on March 17, 2017 in Greenville, South Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 17: Leyton Hammonds #23 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys drives to the basket against the Michigan Wolverines during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 17, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - MARCH 17: Bennie Boatwright #25 and Jonah Mathews #2 of the USC Trojans go for a rebound against Semi Ojeleye #33 and Sterling Brown #3 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs in the second half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at BOK Center on March 17, 2017 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 17: Dylan Ennis #31 of the Oregon Ducks reacts in the second half against the Iona Gaels during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Golden 1 Center on March 17, 2017 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - MARCH 17: Bennie Boatwright #25 of the USC Trojans kneels at center court at the start of the game against the Southern Methodist Mustangs during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at BOK Center on March 17, 2017 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
GREENVILLE, SC - MARCH 17: Moses Kingsley #33 of the Arkansas Razorbacks reacts in the second half against the Seton Hall Pirates in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on March 17, 2017 in Greenville, South Carolina. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 17: Jon Severe #10 of the Iona Gaels fouls Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks in the first half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Golden 1 Center on March 17, 2017 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 17: E.C. Matthews #0 of the Rhode Island Rams attempts a shot against the Creighton Bluejays during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Golden 1 Center on March 17, 2017 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 17: Jordan Washington #23 of the Iona Gaels is helped off the court after suffering an injury in the first half against the Oregon Ducks during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Golden 1 Center on March 17, 2017 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - MARCH 17: De'Anthony Melton #22, Nick Rakocevic #31, Bennie Boatwright #25 and Shaqquan Aaron #0 of the USC Trojans celebrate after defeating the Southern Methodist Mustangs during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at BOK Center on March 17, 2017 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - MARCH 17: Sterling Brown #3 of the Southern Methodist Mustangs handles the ball against Jordan McLaughlin #11 of the USC Trojans in the second half during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at BOK Center on March 17, 2017 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
GREENVILLE, SC - MARCH 17: Theo Pinson #1, Justin Jackson #44, Nate Britt #0 of the North Carolina Tar Heels and teammate cheer from the bench in the second half against the Texas Southern Tigers during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on March 17, 2017 in Greenville, South Carolina. North Carolina Tar Heels won 103-64. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 17: Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks during the first round of the NCAA Baketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 17, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Luckily, the Zags won't have to wait long to see him in a uniform. Wade will be back from his mission in France in 25 days. However, he won't suit up for a game until next season at the earliest.

"He's going to be a really, really good player for us," Few said.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners