Latter-day Saints to watch during NCAA basketball’s March Madness

See a list of members and returned missionaries playing in the postseason

After defeating West Virginia 86-73 on Feb. 3, the BYU men’s basketball team attended worship services in Morgantown on Sunday, Feb. 4, before flying to Oklahoma that afternoon to participate in a multi-stake devotional in Norman prior to a matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners on Feb. 6.

Inside a packed Latter-day Saint meetinghouse, the devotional featured remarks from 12 different members of the BYU basketball team, including players, coaches and support staff. Nine players on the Cougars’ 2023-24 roster have served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Being all in is the best thing you can do … to show Christ that you can carry out your responsibility. Continue to show faith. If we can show faith in everything we do, God will bless us,” said BYU senior guard Trevin Knell, who served in the Uruguay Montevideo Mission, according to a news release.

Sophomore guard Richie Saunders, who served in the Washington Seattle Mission, told the Oklahoma youth, “I know that God cares about the things we care about. While I don’t know if, in the grand scheme of things, He cares about me air-balling a shot or us winning a game, I do know that He cares about the things that we’re passionate about, and He puts them in our lives in order to change us.”

“To anyone out there who is struggling with feelings like ‘hey, this is really hard,’ or ‘I’m not surrounded by a lot of people of the same faith,’ or ‘I don’t feel as bought into this as I ought to be,’ my message is to hang in there, and keep your faith in Jesus Christ, because He definitely can make more out of your life than you can,” said senior guard Spencer Johnson, who served in the Italy Milan Mission.

Dallin Hall, who served in the California Fresno Mission said, “Everyone is a son or daughter of God and that unites us all. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and He is The Way back to our Heavenly Father. He is the only way that we can receive and fulfill our divine potential. I love Him. He is my Healer and my Savior.”

BYU guard Dallin Hall, a returned Latter-day Saint missionary, speaks with young men after the BYU basketball team participated in a devotional in Norman, Oklahoma on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. | BYU Photo

BYU head coach Mark Pope offered spiritual encouragement for achieving goals, hopes and dreams.

“If we will approach that with all the urgency that we have, with all of the effort and work and urgency that we have, and then essentially lay that on the altar and then allow Heavenly Father to lead our life and take us where we need to go, He will make the unimaginable happen in our lives,” he said.

The returned missionaries playing for BYU will be among several Latter-day Saints to watch as conference tournaments tip off this week, followed by NCAA basketball’s March Madness and other postseason action.

Brigham Young University guard Spencer Johnson (20) passes out of the defense of Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Javon Small (12) and Oklahoma State Cowboys guard John-Michael Wright (51) as BYU and Oklahoma State play at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Saturday, March 9, 2024. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Here is a list of returned missionaries and Latter-day Saints playing Division I college basketball as the postseason begins. The following list is not all-inclusive. If you are aware of a returned missionary or a Latter-day Saint who is not listed, send an email to with the player’s name, team and where he served his mission.

Baylor University

Forward Caleb Lohner, of Flower Mound, Texas, is a Latter-day Saint and senior for the Baylor Bears. The No. 3-seed Bears play in the Big 12 tournament on Thursday, March 14.

Boise State University

Sophomore guard Jace Whiting, of Burley, Idaho, served in the Finland Helsinki Mission. He is the son of BYU women’s basketball coach Amber Whiting. His father, Trent Whiting, also played basketball for BYU during the 2000-01 season. His Boise State Broncos are the No. 3 seed in the Mountain West Conference tournament and will play the winner of New Mexico and Air Force in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 14.

Boise State Broncos guard Jace Whiting (15) puts up a shot with Utah State Aggies guard Steven Ashworth (3) trying to defend as they play in the Mountain West Conference Basketball Tournament at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Friday, March 10, 2023. Whiting served his mission in Finland. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Brigham Young University

The Cougars are the No. 5 seed in this week’s Big 12 conference tournament in Kansas City, Missouri. BYU will play the University of Central Florida on Wednesday, March 13. BYU’s nine returned missionaries include:

  • Dawson Baker, Coto De Caza, California, served in Micronesia, Guam.
  • Dallin Hall, Plain City, Utah, served in Fresno, California.
  • Tanner Hayhurst, Eagle, Idaho, served in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  • Spencer Johnson, American Fork, Utah, served in Milan, Italy
  • Trevin Knell, North Salt Lake, Utah, served in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Brigham Young Cougars guard Trevin Knell (21) smiles during the second half of the college men’s basketball game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the TCU Horned Frogs at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah, on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Knell is one of nine Cougars on this year's team who served a Latter-day Saint mission. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
  • Jared McGregor, Saratoga Springs, Utah, served in Spokane, Washington.
  • Richie Saunders, Riverton, Utah, served in Seattle, Washington.
  • Trey Stewart, American Fork, Utah, served in Leeds, England, and Kennewick, Washington.
  • Townsend Tripple, Meridian, Idaho, served in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Cordoba, Argentina.
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Creighton University

Senior Steven Ashworth, of Alpine, Utah, served in Indianapolis, Indiana, and played most of his career at Utah State before transferring to Creighton for this season. The Blue Jays are scheduled to play at New York City’s Madison Square Garden against the winner of Providence-Georgetown in the Big East Conference tournament on Thursday, March 14.

Michigan State University

Sophomore forward Jaxon Kohler, of American Fork, Utah, is a Latter-day Saint who plays for Michigan State. The No. 8-seeded Spartans play No. 9 Minnesota in the Big 10 Conference tournament on Thursday, March 14.

Michigan State's Jaxon Kohler, right, drives against Indiana's Race Thompson during an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, in East Lansing, Michigan. | Al Goldis, Associated Press

Mississippi State

Forward Tolu Smith III, of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, stands 6-foot-11 and lists Jabari Parker, a fellow Latter-day Saint, as one of his favorite players. He and the Bulldogs will play LSU in the SEC tournament on Thursday, March 14.

UC Irvine

Brothers Hayden Welling and Carter Welling, of Draper, Utah, both play for the Anteaters. Hayden served in Gilbert, Arizona, and Carter served in Morristown, New Jersey. UC Irvine is the top seed in the Big West tournament and will play on Friday, March 15.

University of Texas

Guard Shaylee Gonzales, of Gilbert, Arizona, played at BYU before transferring to Texas for the 2022-2023 season. The Longhorns play Iowa State in the women’s Big 12 tournament championship on March 12.

University of Utah

The Utes, the No. 6 seed, face off with No. 11 Arizona State in the Pac-12 Conference tournament on Wednesday, March 13. Returned missionaries playing for Utah include:

  • Hunter Erickson, Provo, Utah, served in North Carolina.
  • Branden Carlson, South Jordan, Utah, served in Manchester, England.
Utah Utes center Branden Carlson (35) looks to his teammate Deivon Smith (5) while defended by Oregon Ducks guard Jadrian Tracey (22) at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024. The Utes won 80-77. Carlson served his mission in Manchester, England. | Marielle Scott, Deseret News
  • Brandon Haddock, Southlake, Texas, served in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Micronesia.
  • Jake Wahlin, Provo, Utah, served in Lithuania.
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Utah State University

After winning the Mountain West Conference regular season title, the Aggies will be the top seed in the Mountain West Conference tournament. They will play the winner of Wyoming-Fresno State on Thursday, March 14.

  • Landon Brenchley, Providence, Utah, served in Toronto, Canada (Mandarin speaking).
  • Mason Falslev, Benson, Utah, served in Brazil.
Freshman guard Mason Falslev looks to pass during the Aggies' exhibition game against Montana State Billings on Nov. 3, 2023, at the Spectrum in Logan, Utah. | Jeff Hunter, Associated Press
  • Dallin Grant, Cedar City, Utah, served in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  • Isaac Johnson, American Fork, Utah, served in Ohio. His sister, Gracie Johnson, played for the USU women’s basketball team this season.
  • Jaxon Smith, Woods Cross, Utah.
  • Karson Templin, Fairview, Texas.

Utah Valley University

The Wolverines are the No. 5 seed in the WAC Tournament and will play No. 8 California Baptist in the first round on Wednesday, March 13.

  • Peter Amakasu, San Diego, California, served in Fukuoka, Japan.
  • Trevin Dorius, Heber City, Utah, served in Scottsdale, Arizona.
  • Jackson Holcombe, Charleston, South Carolina, served in Sacramento, California.
  • Ethan Potter, Layton, Utah, served in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Tanner Toolson, Vancouver, Washington, served in Jacksonville, Florida.
Utah Utes forward Ben Carlson (1) goes to the hoop against Utah Valley Wolverines forward Caleb Stone-Carrawell (25) and center Trevin Dorius (32) at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. Dorius served his Latter-day Saint mission in Scottsdale, Arizona. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
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