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Tanner Toolson will wrap up his two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints later this summer and he will resume his pursuits on the basketball court. He currently serves in Tallahassee.
Toolson, who hails from Vancouver, Washington, was the state’s Mr. Basketball his senior year of high school. He has accepted a basketball scholarship from Brigham Young University (BYU) where he will return.
Toolson is one of six children and cites close-knit family life as a major inspiration both spiritually and athletically. His dad, Andy Toolson, played basketball for BYU and had a brief stretch in professional ball with the Utah Jazz. One brother, Connor, played basketball for Utah Valley University.
In the spiritual realm, Toolson’s influences began at a young age. His family is active in church, and spiritual matters are a high priority.
“When I was 10 or 12, we had a Sunday School lesson that helped me begin thinking about what to do in my life,” he recalled. “I talked to my mom about it, and she advised me to make important decisions early. ‘Decide now,’ she said.”
The fact that Toolson’s father and three older brothers had been missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was another powerful influence.
“My dad served a mission, and I watched as my brothers served,” he said. “I saw changes in them that made me think about how I wanted to be like them. They seemed happier and even more fun to be around. Serving missions gave them greater spiritual maturity and light.”
As to his love of sports, Toolson reported having a lifelong passion for basketball.
“Playing basketball was a desire during all my childhood,” he said. “Then, when I was older, I realized I could play into college and maybe beyond.”
One factor prompting that realization was his growth from 5’6” to 6’5” in high school. He made the varsity basketball team in his junior year and had a stellar senior year with the team.
“A good friend and I promised each other to work as hard as we could and be the best players we could be,” he noted. “The summer before our senior year, we got together each day and practiced for hours.”
It paid off. That senior season, Toolson averaged 23 points, 8.5 rebounds, and three assists per game. His team had 27 wins and finished third in the 4A Washington state tournament.
His outstanding record led to recruitment by BYU, with the understanding that he would play after completing his church mission.
“We are so excited to have Tanner join our BYU program,” Coach Mark Pope commented in a press release. “His trajectory over the last two years has been incredible. He’s got a silky-smooth jumper and has a fire, competitiveness, and physicality that will endear him to Cougar fans.”
Toolson said the opportunity to continue his basketball career past high school and to be scouted by college teams “has been a blessing.” But the further blessing, he added, is experiencing his family’s unity and gospel strength in the process. He attributes a large part of his success on and off the court to his parents’ faith and teachings.
“I’m so grateful for my parents’ support,” he said. “They have taught me what would most bless my life. But they also let me know they would love and support me no matter what I chose to do—mission, career, whatever it was.”
With this kind of example, Toolson said he never really doubted that a mission was the right course.
“It’s more important than any games you win or any shot you make,” he said. “The covenants we make with Heavenly Father, and our relationships with people are the only things we take with us from this life.”
So, his choice was to delay the basketball career and serve a mission.
“Best decision I ever made,” he stated. “It’s been hard, but it’s given me opportunities I never would have had otherwise, and so many blessings—the joy that comes from people learning about the Gospel, the blessings of the temple, the support of family and others. The list goes on and on.”
Post-mission, the star player looks forward to his time at BYU, after which he plans to pursue a professional basketball career. With emphasis, however, on “plans.”
“I’ll take it one step at a time,” he said. “I’ll just see what develops and where the Spirit takes me. That’s the most important thing—to go where Heavenly Father leads.”