BYU Coach Pope Prepared Toolson For Opportunity With Jazz

Dec 8, 2020, 3:23 PM | Updated: Dec 11, 2020, 11:33 am
Jake Toolson and BYU coach Mark Pope (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)...
Jake Toolson and BYU coach Mark Pope (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
(Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Jake Toolson is just days into his NBA career, but his confident he can make an impact in the league. The guard, with an unlikely college career path, said his time at BYU and the adversity he faced before playing professional basketball prepared him for his opportunity with the Utah Jazz.

Toolson signed with the Jazz on an Exhibit-10 contract after going undrafted, giving him a chance to compete for a roster spot on a training camp invite.

The Exhibit-10 deal also gives the Jazz added rights to Toolson, should they decide to waive him, but want to see him play for the G League affiliate Salt Lake City Stars.

How Toolson Ended Up With Jazz

Like all college players, Toolson’s season came to an abrupt end when the NCAA canceled postseason tournaments in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a fifth-year senior, Toolson’s amateur career ended with the college season, and the sharpshooting guard was left to ask — what’s next?

After finding an opportunity to practice in five on five games at local gyms, Toolson found professional representation and turned his eye towards the NBA.

“I signed with an agent and we did interviews with I think it was 22 NBA teams,” Toolson remembered. “We did the Zoom interview process with them during pre-draft and then there are some events that we were able to do on Zoom with workouts and recording and sending them to teams and front offices.”

After gathering information from NBA teams, Toolson and his agent waited for draft night to get a better understanding of what his professional future looked like.

“The draft ended and Utah called and we were waiting on a few things that were developing elsewhere,” Toolson said. “Time went on and we felt good about what we had here and we really liked what we were hearing from the Jazz, and this is a spot that you know really stood out to me.”

The draft was held on Tuesday, November 18. By Thursday, Toolson had agreed to an opportunity with the Jazz.

BYU Prepared Toolson For NBA Opportunity

Toolson has one of the more unique paths to the NBA for current rookies. The guard began his career at BYU under coach Dave Rose. He then transferred to play for Mark Pople at Utah Valley University, before transferring back to BYU after Pope accepted their vacant head coaching position.

Toolson credited BYU and Pope for mindset as he competes for a roster spot with the Jazz.

“Playing for Coach Pope, I wouldn’t be here without him,” Toolson said. “He prepared me to just bring it every day. Training camp, it’s very uncertain right now, and I’m out here fighting every day for a chance. And I think that’s what Coach Pope instilled in me.”

The rookie mentioned Pope’s never say never attitude as a model for how he had decided to pursue his opportunity in Utah.

“He thrives in those situations when people say ‘you can’t do this,'” Toolson said of his former coach. “And he says watch I’m going to make something happen, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Toolson Believes He Can Play In The NBA

As an undrafted rookie, Toolson remains a long shot to make the Jazz opening night roster. But with an open spot on the 15-man depth chart, the depth chart is far from finalized.

Even if the Jazz long-term plan for after signing Toolson was to develop him in the G League, the guard said that’s not where he got his mind set.

“I try to just focus on the present and be where my feet are and try and make the most of this opportunity,” Toolson said. “Then when that conversation comes, we’ll go from there.”

For now, Toolson is trying to learn as much as he can from his current Jazz teammates, while listening to new his head coach.

After averaging 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists during his senior season at BYU, Quin Snyder has a good sense of how Toolson can impact the Jazz.

“Coach Snyder came up to me yesterday and he said ‘I want you to shoot that thing,'” Tool said. “‘Point five mentality, I want you to shoot drive or you know make a play for your teammates.'”

As Toolson continues to fight for the final roster spot on the Jazz, he knows from his college days that the obvious path isn’t always the right one.

“My goal is to be here and I believe in myself,” Toolson said. “I think I’m capable of being a successful NBA player, but the path is still to be determined.”

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