Everywhere he goes, people assume Thurl Bailey played some ball. And their assumptions are correct—Bailey, 7 feet tall, had a long and successful career as a professional basketball player, and now he’s an analyst for the Utah Jazz.

What people may not assume is that Bailey is also an award-winning inspirational singer. Even fewer people would guess that Bailey is a Mormon—and a devout one at that. He recently held an interview with the Mormon Channel where he detailed his incredible conversion to the Church.

Thurl Bailey grew up in a rough neighborhood, but he was raised in a good family. As an African-American in the suburbs of Maryland, Bailey was influenced by the political climate of the 1960s. His parents were among those in attendance at the Washington Monument for Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The middle child of five, Bailey recalled that times were tough growing up, but that his family “didn’t go without.” Though his Baptist parents were not frequent churchgoers, Bailey remembers being raised with a “very good spiritual foundation.”

From an early age, his parents taught him the value of hard work and being a leader—but it wasn’t until his 14th year, when he saw Julius “Dr. J” Erving playing basketball on TV, that his life changed forever. Thurl ate his vegetables, put in countless hours of practice, and before long he was a 7-foot center being recruited to play college ball for North Carolina State, where he was an integral part of the Wolfpack’s 1983 National Championship team.

Read the full story at LDS Living.