Richard Bohne is known as "that Mormon basketball player" and he doesn't mind. In the 1993 regular season, he put the University of Calgary into the national playoffs with a shot from center line that broke an 83-83 tie in the final second of the game. It was a basket that made the national news.
In a game against the University of British Columbia in January 1995, the 6-foot-1 point guard scored 64 points, setting a university record and earning him acclaim in Sports Illustrated. His season average is 34.2 points, and he averages 3.4 steals and 4.6 rebounds a game as well. He has one more year's eligibility remaining.His 684 points this season broke the national scoring record set in 1981-82 by Karl Tilleman, another LDS athlete who also played for the University of Calgary. Bohne was recently named Calgary's male athlete of the year, chosen over a professional hockey player and a professional football player, both considered among the best in the country. He was also named University of Calgary's male athlete of the year and Canada West Player of the Year, among other honors.
His basketball career makes him the target of media from all over the country, yet when asked about the high points, he talks not of basketball, but of the things that are most important to him.
"My wife, my family, my religion - those definitely come before basketball," he says. During a 1993 interview with the Calgary Herald, it didn't take him long to get to the experience that helped him most - his two years serving in the Brazil Sao Paulo Mission.
"It was something I really wanted to do and, looking back, I don't see it as a sacrifice," he told the reporter. "It was the most rewarding experience I've ever had. I learned what I wanted out of life. I learned to appreciate the things I have. It taught me how to relate to people, and I think all of that has helped me as an athlete."
He said he likes to talk to the media about his mission experiences. "That's where I learned a lot of things I use both on the basketball floor and off," he said. Being identified as a Mormon basketball player suits him. "They know my standards, they know what I stand for," he said.
One of the aspects he enjoys about his basketball career is the opportunities it gives him to talk about the Church.
Bohne was born and raised in Raymond in the predominantly LDS part of Alberta that is seen as the hotbed of basketball in the province. Raymond's high school is one of the smallest in the 4A basketball league, but has a long history of provincial championships. After a dazzling high school basketball career (he once sank 11 three-pointers and scored 69 points in one game) he attended Dixie College in St. George, Utah, for a year. At that point, he had scholarship offers from every university in Alberta, and many in the United States, including Hawaii. He turned them all down, choosing instead to serve a mission.
"There never was any doubt," he said. "I had always planned to go on a mission." When he returned, he chose the University of Calgary because he liked the city, the school and the coach, Gary Howard. He also liked the LDS Institute, where he met another University of Calgary athlete, Shondi Bly, a member of the gymnastics team. They were married in the Alberta Temple in June 1993.
His wife and his parents, George and Maureen Bohne, and other family members always form a solid cheering section at every game they can attend.
Bohne is frequently asked to speak at youth firesides. "I talk on decision making and goal setting," he said. "I usually focus my talk on my decision to go on a mission and the influence it has had on both my personal life and my career."
He had one LDS teammate this year - Ryan Baldry, also from Raymond, who attracted considerable attention with a solid performance as a rookie. "The coach asked me if I would use my influence to talk Ryan into delaying his mission a year or two," Bohne said. "I said, `No way, Coach. A mission is too important to miss. First things first.' "
The University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge squared off in February in front of a standing-room-only crowd. Lethbridge's top player was Danny Balderson from Magrath, Raymond's main basketball rival since the two towns were settled by the Church at the turn of the century.
"It's Bohne against Balderson," announced headlines before the game. The game was fierce, with Calgary winning in the final minutes despite the fact that Balderson sank three shots from three-point range in one minute. It was an important game for Bohne: it got his team into the playoffs and he set two scoring records. But in the post-game interview, he told reporters that his records would not stand for long - Danny Balderson would come back and sweep them away, he said.
"He's a player I look up to and a player I wanted to go out and play against," Bohne said of Balderson. "But we're good friends. He's got his life in order." His predictions about the records may come true, but not for at least two years - Danny Balderson is leaving shortly to serve his mission.