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Idaho Falls native, BYU basketball legend dies at 90

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Roland Minson playing for Brigham Young University. | Courtesy BYU basketball Facebook.

IDAHO FALLS — A former Brigham Young University men’s basketball star and Idaho Falls native recently passed away, but not without leaving memories etched in the hearts of family, friends and fans.

Roland Minson played and coached basketball, and he’s best remembered as the MVP of the 1951 National Invitational Tournament. On Wednesday, the 90-year-old passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home in Afton, Wyoming, surrounded by loved ones. He had been on hospice for a while and Dave Minson, his son, said the family knew his time on earth was winding down.

“The tenderness of that experience is just wonderful because of our faith and knowledge of those things far beyond this,” Dave said.

Roland was born Feb. 18, 1929 in Idaho Falls. He was brought home from the hospital in a horse-drawn sleigh to his grandmother’s residence in Ammon. As a child, he helped his family earn money by picking and delivery potatoes to people.

He grew up and attended Idaho Falls High School. He had his sights set on attending college at the University of Utah. Dave said he verbally committed to the university but chose BYU instead.

“BYU was just not on his radar until he started praying about it. When he prayed about it, he felt strongly that’s where he was supposed to go,” Dave said.

His faith helped get him to BYU, where he found himself in the record books. The forward tallied 1,407 career points. Minson was the school’s all-time leading scorer when he graduated in 1951 and remained so until 1973.

Roland Minson in his Idaho Falls High School gear. | Courtesy Geri Scherbel

The New York Knicks drafted Roland in the second round (15th pick overall) of the 1951 National Basketball Association Draft. But he was drafted into the Navy and served as an officer in the Korean War instead.

Dave came across old letters written to Roland from the Knicks after he’d finished his commitment to the Navy, saying they wanted him to go to training camp.

“In one of his responses, he wanted to know the schedule and how often he’d have to play on Sundays,” Dave read. “That was a big concern for him because he felt that it would interfere with his activity in the church.”

Dave said his dad enjoyed teaching the gospel as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Roland and his wife Carol, who passed away in 2017, served three missions together in England sharing the message of the church with others.

“He had a great love for the gospel,” Dave said. “He felt it was more important to teach his family that than it was athletics.”

The funeral service for Roland will be Jan. 11 at noon in Afton.

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