Faith before basketball for BYU-bound Tanner Toolson


The state’s Mr. Basketball will go on a two-year mission before playing college ball

He grew, and then he grew into becoming a basketball star for the Union Titans.

On Thursday, he announced where he would play college basketball.

But before he became a standout on the court, before he made the choice to play at Brigham Young University, Tanner Toolson was a child of faith who became a man of faith.

Union’s Tanner Toolson will put basketball on hold for a couple of years while he goes on a mission for his church. When he returns to the game, he will play for Brigham Young University. Photo by Mike Schultz
Union’s Tanner Toolson will put basketball on hold for a couple of years while he goes on a mission for his church. When he returns to the game, he will play for Brigham Young University. Photo by Mike Schultz

With that said, it will be two more years before Toolson plays basketball at BYU. He will be leaving soon on a mission for his church.

“It’s more important than anything,” Toolson said in a phone interview from Utah on Friday, where he has been visiting family there the past few days.

“Your faith is what will get you where you want to go,” he said. “That’s why I decided to go on a mission. I want to give two years of service to Him because He has given us our whole lives.”

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints opt to go on missions. In Toolson’s case, it is a two-year commitment in Florida. He had no say in where he would go, and he said he would have gone anywhere in the world.

“It was the right thing to do,” he said, adding that as he grew older he was more and more convinced of a mission. 

His father, Andy, went on a mission to Chile before playing at BYU. Tanner’s three older brothers also went on missions. 

“To go out and serve, I’ll have that for my whole life,” Tanner Toolson said.

Toolson’s freshman year at BYU will be the 2022-23 academic year.  

“I’ve always grown up as a kid, watching BYU. It’s always been my school,” he said. “It would be stupid-hard to turn it down. It’s BYU, you know. I think it’s a good decision for me. I’ll be able to grow as a player there and have a good career.”

A few years ago, no one would have thought Toolson as a Division-I talent. Then a growth spurt — he grew 10 inches in high school — that coincided with hard work turned him to one of the most complete players in the Northwest.

Tanner Toolson of Union made his college choice Thursday. He will play for Brigham Young University. Photo by Mike Schultz
Tanner Toolson of Union made his college choice Thursday. He will play for Brigham Young University. Photo by Mike Schultz

Toolson, a 6-5 guard, was named Mr. Washington by the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association in February. He averaged better than 24 points and eight rebounds a game, leading the Union Titans to a perfect regular season and a third-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament.

“It’s still so unreal,” he said, “to think back from there to be where I am now. … It’s a dream moment.”

Toolson also had fun with his announcement moment. He made his decision live on Instagram with Scorebook Live Washington reporter Andy Buhler.

“It was pretty special to be able to do that and have my family here,” Toolson said.

Toolson showed off his family in the living room during the broadcast. It kind of looked like a celebration for a player drafted by a professional franchise. 

“Only get to do that once in a lifetime,” Toolson said of picking his college.

Oh, and for those who watched the announcement, no, Toolson did not lose a fight. He has scrapes on his face after hitting the bottom of a swimming pool.

“This is the worst timing ever,” he said of going on video. “But it’s still pretty funny.”

A memorable night, a promising future, and a commitment to his present mission. That’s Tanner Toolson.

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