Tanner Toolson: Writing his own story

Reading Time: 4 minutes Freshman guard Tanner Toolson comes from a historical lineage of great basketball players. He is working to write his own story.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

It is not often that Utah Valley Men’s Basketball expects to land a transfer with multiple power-five offers coming out of the transfer portal. But they did expect a rising young player in Tanner Toolson to make an immediate impact when he announced he would commit to playing basketball at Utah Valley. 

Toolson, a freshman guard reigning out of Vancouver, Washington standing just over 6’5, has proved to be the ultimate transfer success for the Wolverines this season. 

Averaging 10 points a game, Toolson has provided excellence from both beyond the arc and at the rim with his ferocious dunk package.  

But his dunk package was not all there growing up. 

Toolson was sort of a “late bloomer” through high school where he started his freshman year at just 5’6. Despite being a late bloomer, Toolson led Union High School to a 27-1 record, averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game while being named Mr. Basketball by the state of Washington. Not bad for a guy who did not make varsity until his junior year. 

“Something my coach said to me was, ‘If you keep at this you will be one of the best players at Union.’ I chose to be on the freshman team which was great for my development as I was able to play a lot. Him telling me that was a huge confidence builder,” Toolson stated. “I grew to 5’11 my sophomore year, then 6’3 my junior year, and by my senior year it was kind of crazy at 6’4–6’5.” 

Toolson spent his first year at BYU where he appeared in six games for the Cougars before deciding to enter the transfer portal after redshirting during the year. Going from averaging eight minutes and three points per game, to 28 minutes and 10 points per game, Toolson sticks with his decision. 

“I was playing behind some guys, and I thought, ‘Okay I can still play at a high level. I am going to show up somewhere and I can be that guy.’ When I came to BYU, I was hurt and there were a lot of guys in my position. I knew I could play somewhere,” Toolson explained. “I felt like the greatest opportunity for me to develop my game and be able to play as soon as possible is to come to UVU and it has been awesome. I have been so glad to be here.” 

The injury Toolson referred to was a torn ligament in his foot he suffered on his mission in Florida, which was a huge setback for him. 

“It put me in a boot and set me back for a long time. I came back from my mission planning on BYU, but I had to learn a ton from my recovery and not being able to play and it took a toll on me mentally, but I was able to learn so much from that.” 

The Wolverines have had a rough start to the year, opening the first 20 games at 9-11, but with plenty of season left, Toolson has his sights set high. 

“I think it has been a little bit of a frustrating year for the team. We had higher aspirations than where we are so far. But if we continue to play together and work to get better, I think that we can reach that goal of the NCAA tournament and winning the WAC,” Toolson commented. “We just have to go out and prove that because it is starting to get into crunch time.” 

It is crunch time indeed as the Wolverines are mid-way through their conference slate and sit in seventh place as of Feb. 1. 

Reading the name ‘Toolson” probably sounds familiar. Those who are fans of the Utah Jazz, BYU, or UVU are aware of his family. 

 His father, Andy Toolson, played across the way at BYU where he averaged over 18 points per game in his final season, shooting a scorching 49% from three. Andy would then go on to play for the Utah Jazz for two years, played four years overseas, and become a reliable wing for the Jazz when needed. 

The lineage does not end there; his brother Conner played for Utah Valley from 2016–2019 and was a pivotal piece for the Wolverines during his time.  

Again, the family continues. His cousin Jake Toolson also played for Utah Valley before transferring back to BYU. Jake averaged 15.7 points a game and shot 53/45/85 splits in his senior year at Utah Valley while also winning WAC Player of the Year. 

His other cousin Ryan Toolson played for Utah Valley in 2003–04, and 2006–09, and was named NCAA Division 1 Independent Player of the Year after he averaged 23.4 points per game and led the nation in foul shooting at 95%. 

So, with a family history of phenomenal basketball players, how does Tanner learn to hone that in? 

“My dad always says, ‘Just keep playing. No matter what happens in life or basketball, just keep playing. If you are going through a slump, keep shooting, keep doing your own thing and that percentage will average out.’ It was a huge life lesson that I learned from him that it is more than just basketball. Just keep living. Keep doing your own thing and keep being a good person, work hard, and everything will work itself out.” 

Toolson’s hard work and effort are not just being noticed by the media or fans, his coach is taking note too. 

“We expect these big things from Tanner. He is a young freshman and even when he is in a bit of a shooting slump, the good thing is we have a lot of season left to knock those down which I know he can,” head coach Todd Phillips said after the win versus Southern Utah. 

Toolson’s best game of the season came against Utah Tech in a 26-point effort which allowed the Wolverines to get back into conference contention, just two weeks after Phillips backed him for a shooting slump that he was in. 

While he is working on writing his own story, different from his family that came before him, Toolson offers advice to anyone in that situation. 

“I just want people to know that no matter your story, where you come from, what you do, continue to have faith,” Toolson stated. “If you work hard enough you will be able to play at a level you feel good about. I have big aspirations and dreams, so hopefully I can be an inspiration to those younger than me like my dad and Connor have been inspirations to me.” 

Faith and inspiration are keeping the 22-year-old freshman afloat; what he does with it to finish his story is up to him.