DRAPER — The Utah Jazz are awarding dozens of scholarships to students, and one recipient said the gift presents a "life-changing" opportunity.
When he isn't on the basketball court, you can find Makuei Laeth watching the sport, or working at the Utah Jazz's merchandise store.
"What brought me to Utah was basketball," Laeth said.
He came here to play for the Juan Diego High School basketball team, then also joined the cross-country team. Between practice and school, the Sudan native worked at the Utah Jazz merchandise store and cleaned for his school.
The teen had been preparing ways to cover his finances for college when he got a call from Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson three weeks ago.
"You've been selected for the Utah Jazz scholarship," Clarkson said breaking the news to Laeth over a video call.
Laeth responded, "Are you kidding me, bro?!"
He said he still has a hard time comprehending it, but he couldn't be more thankful to the Utah Jazz and owner Ryan Smith.
More than 55 scholarships will be awarded to students committed to going to universities in Utah. Selected students come from underrepresented communities.
Laeth understands what it feels like to feel underrepresented.
His life in America is largely influenced by the Lost Boys of Sudan. His brother that he lives with in Draper is one of the original 20,000 Sudan boys that sought refuge in America during the country's civil war.
"I have a bunch of opportunities that I get here," Laeth said with a smile.
Those opportunities come with sacrifice, mainly one: his family. The teen's parents and siblings still live in Africa, and he doesn't get to see them often.
"I miss my family. I miss my mom," he said. "It's hard."
The member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints credited God for his blessings and said he will continue to seize all the opportunities of growth that come his way.