Emery had offers to go to basically any school in the country, including North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Stanford. But he chose BYU, and on Wednesday he will leave on a 2-year LDS mission to Frankfurt, Germany.
"I'm really excited," Emery said. "Obviously, I'm nervous because I've never been there, but I know once I get there the nerves will just all go away. It's going to be a great experience, and I'm really looking forward to it."
Plenty of people have asked Emery why is leaving basketball behind for two years, when he is at the top of his game and could make an immediate impact at BYU this coming season? After all, Jimmer Fredette and Jabari Parker didn't go on missions.
"Always, growing up, I wanted to go on a mission," Emery said. "I dreamed of going on a mission."
But as he developed into one of the top high school basketball players in the country, the decision to leave became more difficult, and Emery did have some doubts.
"It was really hard," he said. "Knowing all these basketball accolades were coming towards me and the way I was going, I thought, 'I don't need to go.' I actually went to go play [basketball] with my brother, and I was like, 'What am I doing?' But then I said, 'I'm doing something better.' I love playing basketball, but I can give up my favorite thing for two years to go on a mission."
When the age requirement to go on a mission was lowered from 19 to 18, Emery knew right away that he wanted to graduate high school early, go on his mission, and return to play four consecutive years at BYU.
"That's really what got me going," Emery said. "My dad told me that I could graduate early and come home early. Coming home earlier, as in May instead of, say, July will give me a few extra months to get ready."
Emery is not allowed to play in any competitive basketball games while in Germany. But he will be able to play in a few pick-up games, and will always keep a basketball nearby.
"If there are pick-up games, you can bet I'll be there," Emery said. "I could play lots of basketball or play barely any. In my apartment, I'm just going to do dribbling drills, but that's the only thing I can do unless there is a pick-up game."
How Emery's game will be affected when he returns is anyone's guess. Tyler Haws didn't skip a beat in his first season back with BYU, averaging almost 22 points per game last season. However, other Cougars have struggled when they came back from their missions.
"I don't know how much it's going to affect me," Emery said. "I could be better or I could be worse. But, when I come home, I'm going to do the best I can and work just as hard as I did here at Lone Peak."
In the meantime, BYU fans will be counting the days until Emery returns for the 2015 season.