Daniel Bobik, Like unto Daniel of Old

If we could have been there when ancient Daniel was cast into that lion's den, no doubt we would have been impressed with the young man's confidence. With firm faith, Daniel humbly, but bravely, entered that pit, knowing he would be equal to the test. He was prepared. He knew with God's help, he could do it.

Such is the character of today's Daniel, 6-6 Daniel Bobik of the Cougars.

"He is really confident," says teammate Eric Nielsen. The day I met him, the first thing I thought was he is really confident. He just walked with confidence. He plays with confidence too."

Confident, but not cocky. In Daniel's words, "I have tons of room for improvement. If I were at the top of my game right now, I'd be scared! I like to know my weaknesses so I know what to work on."

So who is this Daniel of the 21st Century? A throwback to Biblical Daniel, for sure, Daniel Bobik is the first of four children born to Ralph, who played varsity basketball at Creighton University, and the former Sheri Crosby. Ralph and Sheri raised their growing brood in southern California where Ralph attended Law School at Loyola Marymount, taking time off as often as possible to shoot hoops with sons Daniel and Brian, who were born less than a year apart. Aaron, currently a high school player, later joined the Bobik team, followed by little sister Christina, a junior high school player who's up to challenging her big brothers on the court!

Daniel had played backyard hoops as long as he could remember, but as the boy grew into adolescence, he actually began to play more baseball than basketball. And where would a confident, tenacious lad like Daniel play? Anywhere he wanted! Recognizing Daniel's competitive spirit, his coach assigned Daniel to play "about 10 feet behind second base," where he could go after every ball that was hit! Daniel's current roommates, twins Jeremy and Jared Callister, remember how difficult it was to get a hit past Bobik's glove. Nevertheless, Daniel later gave up his glove to focus full-time on basketball.

And focus he did. By the time Daniel was a high school freshman, the family had moved to Provo. At 5-9, Daniel played on Timpview High School's freshman team where, in more ways than one, he looked up to Cougar starter Nate Cooper, then a senior starter at Timpview. Daniel recalls thinking, "If I work hard enough, maybe someday I can get a scholarship to play at BYU too!" Although few may have realized it at the time, Daniel's future at BYU was already taking shape.

The Bobiks returned to southern California following Daniel's freshman year. Now a sophomore, Daniel had shot up to 6-1. With skills to match his height, Daniel moved from the Timpview frosh team to the Newbury Park High School Varsity team. He wasn't named a starter, of course-not until the second game! In the first game, as a sophomore playing varsity for the first time, Daniel came off the bench and promptly lit up the scoreboard with 15 points. Thereafter, Daniel was a starter. His favorite memory of prep ball is of his senior year when his brother, Brian, played point guard and Daniel played shooting guard. Four of the five starters on the team were LDS, and they went 14-0.

Bobik's honors as a prep star include Most Valuable Player of the Marmonte League as a junior, and MVP of Ventura County as a senior. Averaging 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals, he was also named to the all-region team, to the first-team All-CIF (Southern California) All-State team, and as an Honorable Mention USA Today High School All-American. Not to let academics slide, Daniel earned a spot on the honor roll as well.

By the time Daniel was racking up honors, Steve Cleveland was hot on his trail, eager to land that premier LDS recruit who could jumpstart the BYU program. He was joined by a host of coaches from other schools, including Washington and Fresno State. Cleveland needed Bobik, but in 1997, Cleveland couldn't exactly sell BYU as a basketball powerhouse. So how was he to land a kid like Bobik?

"He got to know me and built up a rapport with me, a real friendship. It wasn't just about basketball," recalls Bobik. "Before that, I kind of thought I wanted to play close to home, maybe at Pepperdine. But as I got to know Coach Cleveland, I just knew I wanted to play for him."

Bobik was Cleveland's first LDS player to sign. "I'll admit, it was a huge leap of faith," says Daniel, "but he just told me, 'You're my boy'. I can't say enough about him as a coach. He's just awesome. He has turned this program around with his attitude. Coach Cleveland is a winner. He knows what it takes to win, and the program shows it."

Like fellow LDS prep star Mark Bigelow in 1998, Daniel could have made a contribution to the team right out of high school. Instead, however, he chose to serve an LDS Church mission, heading to the Dominican Republic just a month after high school graduation. One would assume that as a basketball star/missionary, he worked on his conditioning and sharpshooting while serving. But remember, we're talking about a Daniel like unto Daniel of old. "I did push ups and jumped rope sometimes, but I didn't go on my mission to become a better basketball player. It was definitely a trial of faith, to lose myself in service and let all the other stuff go. But I wanted to be the best missionary possible. I didn't want to come home and say, 'Oh, if I'd only worked harder.' I didn't want any regrets."

And so Elder Bobik returned from the Dominican Republic two years later "dead tired." He sighs, "That's the way I wanted to go home. I wanted to work as hard as I possibly could, right to the end." He recalls the last five months of his mission as being difficult, with few contacts to teach, but a baptism on the very last night of his mission.

Returning to southern California in July, 2000, Daniel took a couple weeks to gain back his strength before plunging into a rigorous training program. His daily routine, five days a week, consisted of a 30-minute commute, beginning at 7:30 a.m., followed by a three-hour workout with a personal trainer. Returning to his grandparents' home in Newport Beach for lunch, he then ran on the beach in the afternoons to strengthen his legs. Evenings were filled with pick up basketball games in the Los Angeles area. Five weeks later, returned missionary Daniel Bobik set off for Provo to finally join the Cougars as a freshman.

Daniel's contribution to the Cougars has already been significant, coming off the bench against Elon College with 16 points. Assistant Coach Nate Call, who enjoyed his own run of tremendous success as a Cougar guard, believes Daniel has a great future ahead of him.

"He is an excellent player, and he has a lot of different skills," says Call. "Having played point guard in high school, he can dribble, and he can play different positions. He's not a one-dimensional player, and he is multi-talented, which is a threat to the opposition."

Daniel recognizes he has a lot of work yet to do.

"There's a big transition, coming to Divison I ball. Everyone is bigger, stronger, and faster. I have to work on defense, mostly quickness. I have tons of room for improvement." Coaxed to make a further comment, Daniel concedes a pulled muscle has slowed his progress just a little. "It hurts to play defense, but DON'T TELL COACH SCHROYER!" Indeed, Assistant Coach Heath Schroyer, known for his "booming encouragement", will be instrumental in helping Bobik to develop quickness on defense. Says Schroyer, "Daniel's a gym rat. He has a great passion for the game, and he has a desire to improve. If that continues, he'll be a great player."

Coach Cleveland concurs. "Daniel is an intense competitor. He is very focused on reaching his potential. When he learns how to defend, he'll be a really good player."

And what's in Daniel's future beyond basketball? Someday he hopes to have a family, but "not now. I'm not ready for that." When he has the opportunity to be a father, he would like to emulate the example of his own dad, Ralph, his "only true hero." "My dad probably didn't miss one of my games. He sacrificed so much for his kids. I wouldn't be where I am now if it weren't for my dad. He's my biggest fan." As for his mom, "She's the glue that holds us all together. She tells me not to worry so much, to relax."

While not ready just yet, Daniel puts great importance on the family he will have someday. "Doing what's right, and taking care of your family is the most important thing. Basketball is 'just details' next to the family."

Daniel may opt to go into communications, with the goal of someday becoming a sportscaster. While still active on the court, he would like to use his basketball skills as a missionary tool. If he is successful on the court, he recognizes the opportunity to bring positive attention to the university and to the Church. Ultimately, he says, he would like to "be able to help other people out." While noting he doesn't know what the Lord has in store for him, he sometimes thinks about returning to the Dominican Republic to somehow improve conditions there for the people. Again, he stresses his talent to play basketball, and confidence in working with people, are gifts the Lord has given him, and he feels a deep responsibility to develop these gifts in order to touch people's lives for the better.

Biblical Daniel. Daniel Bobik. Confident young men, on the Lord's errand.

Mission First vs. Playing First

Serving a Church mission before playing in college is a growing trend.

Daniel Bobik is the latest to complete the cycle of signing and serving before swishing shots for BYU.

Former BYU Coach Ladell Andersen once theorized the best time to serve a mission is after a player finished college-one player who did this was Dick Nemelka who served in New Zealand in the 1960s.

Andersen said the next best time to serve a mission is before college eligibility starts. A young man must be 19-years-of-age to serve. Here's a list of those who have served volunteer Church missions before playing at BYU:

* Austin Ainge, Dominican Republic #

* Daniel Bobik, Dominican Republic #

* Todd Gentry, Pennsylvania *

* Mark Heslop, Netherlands *

* Dan Howard, Toronto-Chinese #

* Russell Larson, Argentina

* David Nielsen, Santiago, Chile

* Shawn Opunui, Carlsbad, Calif. #

* Alan Pollard, Sweden

* Morgan Smith, Oregon

* Michael Vranes, Oakland, Calif. #

*At BYU one semester before serving

# Current members of BYU program

"The most popular time has been to play a year to get a taste of what you are getting into," said Floyd Johnson, longtime BYU equipment manager, player confidant and unofficial spiritual advisor. There are 12 returned missionaries on this year's BYU men's team, most of whom have played a year before serving.

The worst time to serve a mission is after competing for two years, according to Andersen. Former BYU All-American Devin Durrant is the only one to successfully accomplish this feat.

"Not everyone is like Devin," says Johnson. "He was a great crowd-pleaser and an even greater missionary."