UVU’s Jake Toolson May Be Top Player In State
OREM, Utah – Utah Valley University guard Jake Toolson knows that most people locally and nationally don’t follow his success on the court.
He’s fine with that, but the reality is the redshirt junior might be the best college basketball player in the state, shooting the ball at a historic clip and leading the Wolverines to 20-win seasons in back-to-back years.
“I think my job is to just take care of business on the floor,” said Toolson when asked if he’s been overlooked. “I think I’ve been doing that this year. All that other stuff is going to take care of himself.”
“It’s a tough question,” he continued. “I think that not a lot of people know who I am or what I’m doing at Utah Valley but that’s not my job to care about that.”
Tough Times At BYU
It’s been an interesting journey to stardom for Toolson. He’s the nephew of BYU legend and Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge. Thus it seemed like a slam dunk for the Cougars and for Toolson when he signed with BYU following an extremely impressive prep career in Arizona.
However, it was not a great fit and Toolson left the program midway through his sophomore year.
While he didn’t share details as to why he left the program, Toolson said his time at BYU was so challenging that he lost his love for the game for a period of time.
“That was some of the most difficult times of my life,” said Toolson on his final days as a Cougar. “It was really hard because that was the school that I always wanted to play for.”
However, when former BYU assistant Mark Pope got the top job at UVU, Toolson followed and his love for the game returned.
“I said to myself, just because things didn’t work out (at BYU), everything that I set out to do, every goal, everything I was planning on doing, was still possible,” said Toolson.
New Beginnings Lead To Historic Shooting Season
After sitting out the 2016-17 season due to the NCAA transfer rules, Toolson began anew in Orem with what he called “a chip on his shoulder.”
He started every game for the Wolverines last season, boosting his scoring average to 10.9 points per game on 49.6 percent shooting.
This season, he’s been even better. According to research by the UVU athletics department, Toolson is the only player in the country this season who is shooting over 55 percent from the field, 45 percent from 3-point territory and 85 percent from the charity stripe over with least 20 games played.
According to data provided by Sports-Reference.com, such a season has only been accomplished 20 times since 1992. Of that group, only 10 players in that group scored over 300 total points in a season. Toolson is one of those 10 players. To say that he’s in rare company would be an understatement.
Toolson Is ‘Relentless’ At Practice
As good as Toolson has been this year, Pope believes he can be even better next season as a senior. The reason, he says, is due to his “relentless” dedication to his craft. Seeing Toolson stay late after practice to work on his stroke is a common sight in Orem.
The hard work has paid off dividends.
According to Pope, the program charts every single shot taken in practice all year round. Toolson often knocks down between 72-85 percent of his 3-point attempts without batting an eye.
Yet, game action is different than practice reps. That’s what makes the numbers in games he’s putting up even more impressive. As UVU’s best player, he is often subjected to some of the stingiest defenses that opposing teams can throw at him.
“Part of what makes those numbers extraordinary is that all of those shots are under distress. It’s not like we’re creating a bunch of situations where he’s getting an open look,” explained Pope.
Not The Only Toolson On The Team
Those who follow the Wolverines have probably noticed that Toolson isn’t the only player on the team with that particular last name. Jake’s second cousin, Conner, also joined the program last season after a strong year at Salt Lake Community College. The two are great friends and a killer duo on the court, but interestingly, they didn’t know each other very well growing up.
“It’s been fun to get to know him and people have this idea that who we are and one day, we’re cousins, one day we’re brothers, whatever, we’ve been called everything. It’s cool to be at UVU together and to get to know each other. It took us being teammates to get to know each other,” said Toolson.
If he keeps up his current scoring average and if his team manages to have an extended postseason run, Toolson could break the program’s single-season scoring record sometime in March. With another year of eligibility after this season, he hopes to leave a powerful legacy behind at UVU.
“I just want to be known as someone who won and was a winner and did whatever it took to get the win. That’s the only thing that matters to me,” said Toolson.