If Dave Rose's recruiting prowess is not legendary in BYU circles by now, it should be. He rarely fails to get his man. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of times he has lost a recruiting battle over a prized recruit.
Rose won another one on Tuesday when 6-foot-5 junior swingman Jake Toolson signed on as newest member of BYU's 2014 recruiting class. The Gilbert, Ariz., product also held offers from St. Mary's, Arizona State, and Utah State, but he opted for a career as a Cougar soon after BYU's offer came in.
"BYU is really where I've always wanted to play, so I just decided there was no point to wait it out," Toolson said. "I can't wait to be part of BYU's program and play for coach Rose, who is obviously a great coach who is doing great things at BYU."
Toolson is a swingman who can play at either the two guard or small forward positions. He's been noted as a deadeye shooter from 3-point range along [while] possessing a great mid-range game.
All of this is well and good. Toolson sounds like a nice kid and a solid player with skills (coughshootingcough) that the Cougars desperately need. As a coach at BYU, you have to be able to recruit the good (basketball-wise and otherwise) Mormon kids to remain competitive. Past coaches haven't always succeeded in that regard, and the program suffered as a result. Rose gets those kids (with very few exceptions), and the program has flourished during his tenure. If nothing else, Toolson is yet another evidence to his mastery.
But Toolson is also more than just another nice Mormon kid that Rose has successfully wooed to Provo, for one key reason — his connection to another nice Mormon kid (albeit one with elite talent) could prove to be almost as significant to BYU's future as anything he ever does on the court.
Toolson averages 18 points this season for Highland High, which is located in the Phoenix area. He's very good friends with fellow Phoenix area prospect Payton Dastrup, who has piled up the offers over the past year.
Dastrup is a 6-foot-9 prospect who holds well over 20 offers, including BYU, Utah, Utah State, Florida, Arizona and Arizona State.
"We're very good friends and whenever (Dastrup) is playing when I don't have a game I make sure I go out there to watch him and he does the same," Toolson said. "I'll obviously be trying hard to convince him to sign with BYU now that I'm committed. I'd love to have the opportunity to play with him while at BYU."
Let's be clear: As big of a recruit as T.J. Haws is (and he is a huge get for Rose), Payton Dastrup is just as big — and nobody is really talking about it.
Haws the younger is ranked 39th in his class on ESPN's list of the top national recruits. Dastrup is ranked 38th on that same list. Yet while all the excitement and attention about BYU's 2014 class has so far been focused on Haws (perhaps due to his connection to high-profile 2013 commits Nick Emery and Eric Mika), Dastrup has continued to weigh his options in relative obscurity. But make no mistake: despite the lack of fanfare, he has Rose's (and many other coaches') full attention.
And this is where Jake Toolson comes in. As pointed out by Gurney, he and Dastrup are good buddies. They play on the same AAU travel team, Utah Select, during the offseason. There is clearly an established relationship there, both on and off the hardwood. Is it crazy to believe that such a connection might somehow factor into the big man's final decision?
Maybe. But maybe not. You never can tell what might sway the mind of a 17-year-old kid on any given day.
This is not to say that having the friend of a top recruit committed to your program guarantees that said top recruit will ultimately pick your school. It doesn't. College is a huge choice, and every kid has to weigh a variety of factors that determine which opportunity is right for him. Neither is this meant to belittle Toolson's own on-court potential — I fully expect him to be a valuable contributor for the Cougars for many years to come, not merely a conduit to the heart of his exceptionally talented boyhood friend. But when you're a mid-major school like BYU and you are competing against the likes of Florida and Arizona for an elite recruit, you need every bit of help you can get.
Jake Toolson may be able to provide that little bit of extra help — and I'm sure that even Dave Rose, the Mormon recruit whisperer himself, appreciates the assistance.