RELUCTANT HERO: BYU'S TOOLSON HAS HIGH PROFILE ON COURT, DOESN'T ENJOY POSTGAME SPOTLIGHT
The latest ex-class president/Young Republican/Boy Scout basketball star at BYU is squirming his way through another interview. Although he has been through the process dozens of times, he never seems to enjoy it.
Do you like BYU being an underdog this year?"I guess I've always grown up thinking BYU was a great school with a lot of tradition. I hate to think it's gone down, that we are an underdog," he says earnestly.
You don't like a lot of controversy . . .
"Basically, that's the way I've been brought up. I try to create a good atmosphere. I'm not real controversial."
Are you uncomfortable being a basketball star?
"I never think of it that way. We don't have any stars on this team."
Though Andy Toolson never got farther than Second Class Scout status, he is a page straight out of Boy's Life. He married a pageant queen. He served a summer internship for Senator James McClure (R-Idaho). He plays piano and even sang the national anthem at a BYU basketball game.
"He's the All-American boy," says his wife, Holly.
All-American boys are not new to BYU; the place is a haven for the trustworthy, loyal, helpful and kind. Former hoop star Michael Smith was a student-body president and honors student in California before going on to college. Quarterback Ty Detmer is every coach's dream, and former quarterback Steve Young was a Frank Merriwell in Levi's 501s.
Toolson, though, is a particularly reluctant hero. In high school he worked so hard at making everyone happy, his coach, John Astorquia, nicknamed him "The Senator." He modestly defers credit after games to teamwork and coaching. And he winces when asked about marrying a former Miss Idaho. "My wife says please don't call her a beauty queen," he says.
An Idaho A-1 Player of the Year at Twin Falls High, Toolson lettered in basketball, football and track. He also played baseball until Astorquia took Toolson aside after his sopho-more year and urged him to concentrate on basketball. "He told me if I wanted to be a college player, I needed to stay in the gym," says Toolson.
Besides being a star athlete, Toolson covered about all the other areas necessary to be a BMOC. He was senior class president, a member of the National Honor Society and keyboard player in a local rock band. "I was the only one who wanted to play pop music," he says. "The rest of them wanted Pink Floyd."
Unlike many prep stars, Toolson didn't have tremendous statistics - he averaged only 21 points a game. The reason for his relatively ordinary numbers was Astorquia's philosophy of team unity. "It's better for me to score 20 points and have a good atmosphere on the team than to score 45 and have resentment and jealousy and mess up the chemistry."
One thing the Bruins did mess up was a shot at the state title. During Toolson's junior year they lost by one point in the playoffs to Meridian, where his future wife was a cheerleader. However, the couple never met until they went to BYU.
During Toolson's senior year, Twin Falls was rated No. 1 but lost out in the district tournament.
After matriculating to BYU, Toolson became the Cougars' third-leading scorer as a freshman. He then spent two years on an LDS mission to Chile. Returning in 1987, Toolson suffered through the usual post-mission doldrums, as his scoring average dropped off by two points. But last year he improved to a 15-point average.
Although Toolson now shares the high visibility spots on the team with guard Marty Haws, he readily admits he isn't interested in becoming a media figure. His post-game comments generally consist of a series of bland references to teamwork and positive thinking.
Last season, when Smith began criticizing the coaches in front of reporters, Toolson began warning him, in Spanish, to watch the negative talk. "That kind of thing doesn't do us any good," Toolson later explained.
Being poor material for the tabloids and Geraldo doesn't bother Toolson. For him, Bland is Beautiful.
"I'm Mr. Cliche. I give boring interviews. It's not by design, it's just my personality. That's me," he says. In an effort to help with his acknowledged lack of color, Toolson has even gone so far as to tell writers to make up a quote that is less boring than the original utterance.
Toolson's game has been anything but boring. With Smith gone, first-year Coach Roger Reid made it no secret that Toolson would need to score more than in the past. He responded by averaging 20 points a game, including a 33-point performance against Penn State, 32 against Eastern Washington and 29 against Northwestern. At 6-foot-6, Toolson, who high jumped 6-6 in high school, also is the team leader in rebounding with a 7.8 average.
Last spring he wed the former Holly Hill. However, Toolson says it was after considerable skepticism. Both were suspicious of the other's social status. When first introduced, he wasn't interested in dating a pageant queen; she didn't like jocks.
"My first impression was I didn't want to go out with a jock," says Holly."And he didn't want to go out with Miss Idaho."
"We were a little suspicious of each other's backgrounds," says Toolson. "It was kind of a negative thing both ways."
They fixed it by getting married.
Toolson's aversion to publicity hasn't always kept him out of trouble. After playing Wyoming last year, he complained to the press about being hit in the face and subjected to obscenities by a Wyoming player. The story drew considerable coverage on both sides of the Rockies.
Ironically, it was Toolson who later wrote a letter of apology to Wyoming Coach Benny Dees. "It was a sad thing to happen and it got way out of proportion," says Toolson.
Last summer, working for McClure in Washington, D.C., Toolson became interested enough to consider going into politics after college. It wouldn't be a bad idea for somebody who has been accused of talking like a politician. Then again, he'd have to get used to doing interviews all over again.
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