Josh Ralphs, a freshman majoring in general studies, has decided to give up a college basketball scholarship to serve the Lord as a full-time representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this upcoming year.
“When it comes down to it, I just looked at it as what is going to help me more?” Ralphs said. “Serving a mission and learning more about Jesus Christ and the eternal plan he has for me, or playing basketball?”
Ralphs said he was a high school stand-out in the state of Colorado. He said he was a starter on the varsity basketball team throughout high school at Horizon High School in Denver, where he excelled at a very high level.
He averaged about 20 points, six assists and almost five rebounds per game, according to Horizon High School athletics. He said he was also awarded all-conference honors his junior year and all-state honors his senior year. During his senior year, he said he led his team to the Elite 8, meaning his team was one of the top eight teams in the state at that level.
With all the individual and team success Ralphs saw as a basketball player, he said he drew a lot of attention from different colleges. He said he also played in front of several colleges during the summer of his junior year.
Ralphs said he received interest from Westminster, Colorado State and the University of Colorado, to name a few.
“All these schools I just wanted to see if I had a chance at,” Ralphs said. “Before that, I sent them film, I sent them credentials, and they showed interest. The one that showed the most interest was Westminster in Salt Lake. That’s one of the schools I thought would be a good fit. It’s close to home, close to family and a good school.”
Ralphs said that when he told all of the Colorado schools that he would take two years off to serve a mission, they all quit talking to him. He said Westminster continued with some interest, but only on a certain set of conditions.
“Westminster was willing to negotiate if I would postpone my mission for two years, which I didn’t want to do,” Ralphs said. “They would offer me a scholarship if I waited. I knew I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to serve a mission when I turned 18.”
Ralphs said this was a decision he had already made and knew he would serve, but it was not easy to turn down basketball.
“When the reality sunk in that I wouldn’t play ball anymore, that was the deciding moment,” Ralphs said. “It was a hard decision. The mission is most important, but when reality kicked in, it was definitely hard.”
He said that although he told Westminster College his decision, they kept pressuring him to reconsider.
“They kept on calling, kept on trying,” Ralphs said. “It wasn’t the greatest, for sure.”
Ralphs said even though he received pressure, because of good church leaders and a supportive family, he was able to stay strong. He said a big motivator for him serving his mission is his older brother, who is currently serving in the mission field. He said his brother has greatly influenced him.
“He’s an amazing example,” Ralphs said. “One of the reasons I am going to serve is because of him. He’s challenged me to do it, and I know it’s the right thing for me as well.”
Ralphs said his brother has received permission from his mission president to Skype call Ralphs when he opens his mission call.
Ralphs said since his decision to give up basketball to serve the Lord, he has decided to attend school at BYU-Idaho which he has enjoyed, even though he was not always sure if he would like it coming from the big city of Denver.
“Surprisingly, I didn’t know if I was going to like it,” Ralphs said. “I was nervous, but then I met my cool roommates, met people on my basketball team that I like.”
He said his ward has been great and how others in his ward are anxiously awaiting their calls.
“I think I have been blessed by the friendships I have made and the atmosphere,” Ralphs said.
Ralphs said he continues to play basketball almost every night. He said he knows basketball will continue to bless his life, even in the mission field.
“Sports is an amazing teacher,” Ralphs said. “It gives you your ups; it gives you your downs. Definitely teaches you humility. Teaches you mental toughness.”
Ralphs said he will be receiving his mission call soon, after which he hopes to leave sometime early next year.
Ralphs said there are those who doubt his decision, but his response is simple.
“I love basketball, but when it is compared to serving a mission, it’s insignificant, and it is not what the Lord wants you to do right now.”